America's Cup groups like 'small children'

THE America's Cup Event Authority has launched a jury protest against Italian syndicate Luna Rossa for not showing up at a party.

Welcome to the America's Cup and the gratuitous use of the protest. Yes, Luna Rossa are being taken to task by the ACEA (the people who run the event, as opposed to the America's Cup Race Management who run the regatta). ACEA have protested against Luna Rossa for not bringing its AC45 (a 45-foot catamaran) to the opening ceremony - and for not showing up to the Louis Vuitton party which traditionally kicks off proceedings.

Never ones to back off from a skirmish, the Italians have responded in kind - issuing a jury protest against ACEA complaining that the authority, run by Kiwi chief executive Stephen Barclay, had breached the Cup protocol by altering Luna Rossa's image for use on hoardings around the event.

This seems rather reminiscent of two small children standing on opposite sides of the room, throwing feathers at each other while screaming at such a high pitch that all the neighbourhood dogs run away. However, the reason for all this popgun protesting could be mired in the extraordinary politics of the America's Cup.

The AC45s are the smaller catamarans used in the build-up to the America's Cup, raced internationally and called the America's Cup World Series. All the teams have them here and were supposed to moor them at the America's Cup Park as part of the opening ceremony hoop-la.

The Italians' AC45 was prominently missing, fuelling rumours that they were about to pull out of the regatta. This was the time of "Ruddergate" - the subject of a protest to the jury by Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand involving the proposed use of safety rudders that both teams felt would hand an advantage to defenders Oracle if the rules were changed.

The Italians were apparently on the cusp of going home if the jury had found against them. More recently, they have nixed a proposal by Emirates Team NZ that stricken team Artemis be allowed to use the safety rudders to help get them back on the water and, more importantly, into the regatta, which needs them as it has so far been a muted on-water event.

The cynical could be forgiven for wondering if the timing of the ACEA protest has anything to do with the Italians' stance on this matter. The opening ceremony was on July 4, the Louis Vuitton party a day later.

It's difficult to know what the jury will do with the ACEA protest; many think they will throw it out and it is not known what sort of penalty - if any - might be imposed on the Italians. It may even be that the ACEA have more of a case to answer; under the Cup protocol there is a rule about not fiddling with the image of any of the teams' boats so as to disturb their sponsors' exposure.

But that is what appears to have happened with the image complained of - it is clearly Luna Rossa but has been photoshopped to be a generic yacht and is minus the usual sponsor logos and livery.

It's to be hoped the jury makes them all shake hands and go to bed without any supper - and ACEA's Barclay has other things on his mind.

The official attendance figures over the weekend were about 35,000 for Saturday and Sunday (when Team NZ raced Luna Rossa in the first two-boat race) - not bad for a regatta in restricted form. The figures for attendance midweek are still being compiled and will likely run under that on a daily basis.

However, the San Francisco summer yesterday really showed up for the first time this week and might have encouraged more people to the park - certainly San Francisco's waterfront parade, the Embarcadero, was full of holidaymakers, tourists and sightseers.

All four AC72 yachts were on full view, too - Team NZ training with Luna Rossa and both of Oracle's yachts putting each other through their paces. At one stage all four were in a straight line on a sparkling San Francisco Bay - about 90m and US$40 million ($51 million) of space-age catamarans.

Quite a sight.

Topics:  america's cup luna rossa opinion sailing

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