San Francisco Bay– The first race of the 34th America’s Cup, the oldest and arguably most expensive trophy in sport, and only one of the two 72 foot long multi-million dollar hydro-foiling capable catamarans is waiting at the start line with its eleven battle dressed crew frantically working to keep it upright.
The Cup has historically drawn hyperbolic controversy- pitting the super-wealthy and the sport's super-elite, against each other since it was first contested in 1851. This year’s competition has reached previously unknown levels with the stakes having risen exponentially under the direction of Oracle CEO and the US’s third wealthiest man, Larry Ellison and Oracle team CEO Russell Coutts who decided upon the AC72 class catamarans for the races- dangerous, expensive, and following May 9th and the death of Team Artemis tactician Andrew “Bart” Simpson - deadly.
Controversy is co-alecsing around the 37 safety recommendations submitted by an independent review panel on May 22nd following the tragic accident on May 9th. In what is being dubbed ‘Ruddergate’, teams Luna Rossa and Emirates New Zealand are claiming the new specifications given for the AC72’s rudder dimensions are unfairly biased towards defender team Oracle, who coincidentally or not, had already been using rudders meeting the May 22nd dimensions before they had been recommended. The new recommendations require a rudder to reach a minimum depth of 2.3 meters and a minimum width of
Regatta director, Iain Murray, longtime veteran of America’s Cup racing and member of the independent review, asserts the recommendations were made independently with only safety concerns in mind. “[Team Luna Rossa and Team Emirates New Zealand] have known since May 22 ... it's garbage these are safety recommendations- its takes less than a week to design a new rudder. I have no idea- they timed it together.”
|Iain Murray, Max Sirena, and Steven Barclay Voice Their Concerns|
A veteran of the cup though, he is dismissive of this effecting later competition “In 87’ we had the wing keel, in ‘92 we had the bow sprit, In ‘95 we had the three boat fluid thinking challenge. You know every America’s Cup has had its signature turbulence getting off the start, it normally happens at the start.”
The Cup CEO, Steven Barclay was notably upset in Sunday morning’s press conference. “We all agreed on May 22nd to be bound by these conditions...what you are seeing here at the moment is all about competitiveness. But this particular situation is unique because there was a fatality here and 37 safety recommendations were given," said Barclay.
“Disappointing is a word that clearly comes to mind. The fans are disappointed, we the event is disappointed, and the sponsors are disappointed. We have worked for a couple of years to get to this point, Luna Rossa is a great team its been around since 2000 and New Zealand has won the America’s Cup once. I’m disappointed, Ive worked for more than three years to get to this point."
In another notable twist, Luna Rossa closed its store on Pier 27 of the America’s Cup pavilion yesterday. They were reprimanded by the event authority when it was discovered that their main sponsor Prada was selling non cup-related items from the store front. Perhaps out of another show of dismay with the event, Rossa has withdrew from their store-front as well as racing.
Skipper Max Sirena spoke at a press conference last Friday when he first threatened to not participate in Sunday’s race. "The main reason we are not racing on [Monday] is a principle concept, we do not accept what is being done," said Sirena.
"We want to hear the decision of the jury and then we will make our plans on top of that."