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America's Cup changes 'nothing short of a disgrace'

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The most knowledgeable man on the America's Cup has accused current regatta bosses of "abusing and disgracing" the event and hit out strongly at their treatment of Team New Zealand.


Britain's Bob Fisher is acknowledged as the doyen of international sailing journalists and is the leading America's Cup historian, having covered the event since 1967.


In an open letter to the America's Cup Events Authority, whose chief executive  is Cup legend and Kiwi Sir Russell Coutts, Fisher said the late changes to reduce boats sizes and take the challenger series away from Auckland "has been nothing short of a disgrace to the premier event in the sport of sailing".


Fisher penned his letter for noted yachting website Sail-World.com and didn't hold back.


"You have abused it, misused it and reduced it to no more than an average regatta, losing on the way its prestige and at the same time driven away the most serious competitors," Fisher wrote.


His criticism follows the attack on cup bosses by Louis Vuitton Cup chief and noted French cup sailor Bruno Trouble who last week said the changes has reduced the event to: "A vulgar beach event smelling of sunscreen and French fries. This is definitely not the Cup."


Fisher noted the treatment of Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa, the Italian syndicate who withdrew in protest to the changes, after the pair of  were outvoted in a majority decision by holders Oracle, Swedish outfit Artemis Racing and newcomers Ben Ainslie Racing (Britain) and Team France.


"In the last America's Cup event … the two challengers that came up to the mark were Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa. In the course of the past week you have made it virtually impossible for ETNZ to raise the necessary funds to continue by removing any chance of a major regatta in Auckland, and, by a huge change in the size of boat, caused the Italian team to withdraw. Is this what you really want?" Fisher asked. 


"Gone is all semblance of stability and adherence to rules unanimously agreed at the outset and in their place an undercurrent of commercial misunderstanding and constantly changing rules without the unanimity of the challengers as initially agreed. Both of these are a disgrace to the Cup and to yourselves."


Fisher said the u-turn on the challenger series in Auckland being taken to Bermuda was "effectively slapping Team New Zealand in the face and reducing the Kiwis' chances of government sponsorship, possibly even eliminating them from the event".

Team New Zealand believe they have a signed agreement to hold the event in Auckland and have taken their claims to the Cup's arbitration panel, setting the event up for more legal wrangles.


Fisher believed cup bosses were too preoccupied with TV audiences and the commercialism of the cup when its tradition made it a stand-alone event.


He believed the current management had outdone noted Cup bad boys the New York Yacht Club with their late changes to design, an unprecedented move that eliminated the frustrated Italians, headed by Prada boss Patrizio Bertelli, who had been advanced with their plans for the original 62-foot foiling catamarans originally agreed upon.


"I suppose you comment will be: 'silly him', but you have lost one of the biggest commercial sponsors of the cup. To throw fat on the fire, you are offering to give design and financial support to the French team, which has made little progress."


Fisher said there was no need for the World Series events to be raced between Cups – a series that  has been reduced to just three events this year, with Italy cancelling the series opener in further protest to the recent developments.


 - Stuff.co.nz

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