Racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup, America's Cup Challenger Series, begins on Sunday and the war of words is ramping up ahead of the start gun.
At issue are safety recommendations issued by Regatta Director Iain Murray. Specifically, safety recommendations that allow for changes to increase the surface area of rudder elevators, which help to increase control during manoeuvres.
Emirates Team New Zealand has already filed a protest with the International Jury over the changes, claiming "the contentious Class Rule changes are performance-related rules not necessary to ensure safety."
On Tuesday, during a media tour of the Italian team base, Max Sirena, the skipper of Luna Rossa, told media that, "I'm not saying all the changes have been made for them (ORACLE TEAM USA), but it's nothing related to safety. What really upsets me is that there is one boat sailing (ORACLE TEAM USA) since they launched on April 24 who has been sailing out of the class rule."
Then, in an echo of Dennis Conner's infamous quote from the 1987 America's Cup, when he said, " Why would you want to build (a 12-meter) in fibreglass… unless you wanted to cheat?", Sirena asked the media: "Why design a boat that doesn't comply with the class rule? And then one week before the Louis Vuitton Cup, you (Regatta Director Iain Murray) ask the other teams to change the position of the rudders and the elevators…"
Murray is scheduled to speak to the media on Wednesday morning. But on Tuesday, he expressed disappointment at the attack on his credibility and questioned Sirena's timeline.
"Luna Rossa was there six weeks ago, on May 22, when I handed out the rudder elevator requirements and all four teams agreed in principle to the proposal.
"On a personal level, I have to say I find it upsetting when people say these safety recommendations aren't for safety but to increase the performance of one team," Murray said. "The implication is that I’m doing this to favour ORACLE TEAM USA. That’s an attack on my character and I don’t accept that. Quite frankly I find it insulting."
Murray, as Regatta Director, implemented the 37 safety recommendations after chairing a Review Panel of experts, which was convened following the fatal capsize of Artemis Racing.
"In terms of these changes being at the behest of ORACLE TEAM USA, I’d remind everyone that the Regatta Director is appointed jointly by the competitors to act on behalf of each and every one of them in a fair and neutral way. America's Cup Race Management, which I lead, is owned and controlled by the competitors.
"I do not answer to ACEA. I do not answer solely to ORACLE TEAM USA nor do I answer solely to Emirates Team New Zealand or Luna Rossa or Artemis Racing. As the Regatta Director and CEO of America’s Cup Race Management, I am responsible for providing 'neutral, independent, professional and fair race management'.
"The 37 safety recommendations are what I believe to be necessary to ensure the regatta is as safe as possible this summer."
Murray says he'll set the record straight on the safety recommendations when he meets the media on Wednesday.
Late on Tuesday afternoon, Luna Rossa issued a press release indicating it too would file a protest with the International Jury.