SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Hopes rose that the America’s Cup can at last get down to real racing after a jury backed Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa in their protest of a design change imposed in the name of safety.
“Let the racing begin,” Team New Zealand managing director Grant Dalton said, looking forward to a scheduled showdown with Italy’s Luna Rossa on Saturday.
The two teams had argued that regatta director Iain Murray exceeded his authority when he made wider, heavier rudder wings part of the package of safety rules he issued in May, a fortnight after British sailor Andrew Simpson was killed when the AC72 catamaran of Swedish team Artemis Racing capsized in training on San Francisco Bay.
The change was among 37 safety recommendations made by Murray, but the “Ruddergate” protest was spawned when Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa argued that such a change was a performance rather than a safety issue — and that it gave an unfair advantage to defending America’s Cup champions Oracle Team USA owned by billionaire Larry Ellison.
The wrangle had prompted Luna Rossa to boycott Sunday’s opening race in the Louis Vuitton Cup, the series to produce a challenger to take on Oracle in the America’s Cup finals in September.
With Artemis Racing’s new boat still not ready, the first three Louis Vuitton Cup “races” offered the embarrassing spectacle of just one boat touring the course on San Francisco Bay.