America's Cup director threatens to cancel races if safety changes aren't upheld 

click to enlarge America's Cup director Iain Murray met with the media Wednesday to explain his side of 37 proposed safety changes that have created quite a stir. - GILLES MARTIN-RAGET/ACEA
  • GILLES MARTIN-RAget/acea
  • America's Cup director Iain Murray met with the media Wednesday to explain his side of 37 proposed safety changes that have created quite a stir.

An event that has a tradition of controversy nearly as long as its tradition for world-class sailing took another twist on Wednesday.

America's Cup director Iain Murray threatened to take steps to cancel the America's Cup regatta if an international jury doesn't uphold his safety recommendations that are under protest.

Murray said if his recommendations are overturned, he will have no choice but to tell the Coast Guard that the safety plan hasn't been met and will discuss whether or not the permit to race would still stand.

"Without a permit to race on San Francisco Bay, there will be no regatta," Murray told reporters.

At issue is a rule change that ostensibly was made for safety reasons following the death of British sailing star Andrew Simpson on May 9 when challenger Artemis Racing capsized.

After Simpson was killed, Murray made 37 safety recommendations, including a highly technical one regarding the size and location of rudder elevators, the winglets on the base of the rudder blades that help control the pitch of the boat.

Italy's Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand have lodged complaints against the proposed change and an international jury is scheduled to hear New Zealand's case on Monday.

The two teams filing the appeals feel the changes are aimed at giving a distinct advantage to defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA.

"We don't think it's necessary or safe at all," New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said Tuesday of the proposed rudder change.

Emirates Team New Zealand doesn't think Murray can unilaterally change the class rule without the unanimous consent of the competitors. Plus, it says it could lead to gruesome injuries because the rule now allows for the elevators to extend beyond the beam, or the width, of the boats.

In short, the New Zealanders say they built their boat under a set of rules that now has been changed, cutting into their competitive advantage.

Murray, who said all the teams agreed to the changes when they were first recommended on May 22, fired back on Wednesday.

"This is about two teams trying to gain an advantage from changes I've implemented to make all of our racing safer," Murray said.

The Louis Vuitton Cup challengers series is set to get underway on Sunday at 12:15 p.m. with a race between Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand.

The America's Cup Village officially opens today with an opening ceremony and plenty of other festivities planned.

— Staff, wire report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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