Could this week see the number of official America’s Cup challengers dropping from an already record-low three to just two? That scenario isn’t any longer in the realm of science fiction, following the informal meeting Patrizio Bertelli held with Italian journalists held on Sunday evening at the Luna Rossa base in San Francisco.
The Italian fashion magnate stated that the chances of pulling the plug completely were at 50%. He isn’t interested in taking part in this America’s Cup and in fact he has been seriously contemplating the team’s withdrawal since a month. He claimed that New Zealanders had also thought about withdrawing but their multi-million sponsorship deals made that option simply impossible.
It is easy to understand why Bertelli is so upset with the current situation. Although, he’s passionate about sailing and the America’s Cup, he’s a businessman first and foremost and uses Luna Rossa as a highly-productive marketing tool for the Prada brand. From a sponsor perspective, especially one whose main objective is the Asian market, this edition of the America’s Cup failed to deliver on nearly everything that was promised. The America’s Cup World Series was a great sports success but failed to go to a venue outside Europe and the US, well-established markets for Prada. There aren’t any Asian challengers, thus reducing the allure the event can have in Asia. Finally, the presence of just four teams in San Francisco and the much smaller footprint of the event are factors that also reduce the interest for the US west coast market.
The International Jury started hearing applications from Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa at 9am local time, Monday morning. According to the official America’s Cup website, the two cases have been consolidated and will be heard together with parties being given the opportunity to speak to their submissions.
As Max Sirena stated frequently last week, although the two cases differ in their details they are indeed practically identical in substance and concern the AC72 class rule changes, regatta director Iain Murray unilaterally made, without the unanimous approval of the four participating teams.
International Jury chairman David Tillett says the hearing will last as long as is necessary to hear the evidence and he “would like” to have a decision by Wednesday.