Prada's entry ups ante for 34th America's Cup

The Extreme Sailing Series 2011. Act 2. Qingdao. China. Luna Rossa celebrate winning the China regatta

In a media call today, America’s Cup Regatta Director Iain Murray and CEO Craig Thompson commented on the exciting confirmation that indeed, long time Cup favorite Prada/Luna Rossa is back, this time collaborating on boats and such with Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ).

Said Murray: 'For those with a keen eye who spotted Luna Rossa in and out of the ETNZ team base in Plymouth have been adding two and two to get four, the answer is obvious today and presents a very strong group of people who I think will have enhanced chances in the America’s Cup going forward. It seems like a positive, strong move for the America’s Cup.

Luna Rossa will take delivery of their AC45 in early December subject to branding and hull painting etc. The destination of it is unknown at this stage and where they’ll actually sail it the first time. They will be competing in events for 2012 and sure, they won’t be scored for the AC World Series round 1 which concludes in Newport, RI, next June but I don’t think that’s their highest priority. I think they’re keen to get their boat and get out there and start to learn about sailing wing-sailed catamarans.'

Murray also confirmed that there’s no limits on where Prada can take its AC45 to train, however the team'll be seriously considering where it’ll get the best bang for buck, 'Probably the biggest thing with taking an AC45 for any AC team anywhere is generally in most countries you will incur taxes. NZ presents an opportunity for them but there’s taxes to pay when you go to train for certain periods of time which is a discussion Luna Rossa will have to have with the various authorities of that country. Other than the taxes, they can go wherever they like until the first event.'

Thompson added that today’s news from Italy may not be the last with regards to more teams joining.

'Today we have another major competitor coming into the competition and this has got to be good. I hope it’s going to put a lot of pressure on Oracle and that they’re going to have to make some response to this. It’ll be really interesting to see what happens when Luna Rossa gets on the water. From a story telling and competitive aspect, it’s great for the Cup. And, we are still in discussion with some very serious parties who are still trying to come in.'

While on the subject of new teams entering and timing, there’s still a big void in events between San Diego (November 12-20, 2011) and Napoli (April 7-15, 2012), which AC has yet to resolve.

Said Thompson, 'We are in discussions for still having an event in late Jan early Feb but honestly it looks doubtful right now before Napoli in April. We are disappointed about this because we will take a hit to frequency/regularity. The good news is that we’re going through the winter months where it’s a downtime for sailing but nevertheless we would have liked to have an event during that time. We’re still hoping something may materialize. We do need to figure out what the teams will be doing during this time.

Hmmm - I think the winter months are a great time in the Southern Hemisphere for sailing, and discussions have in fact been going on in Australia and New Zealand as possible World Series venues, according to Murray.

'The discussions with Australia have broken off with both sides agreeing that what we were trying to achieve wasn’t attainable. New Zealand has been in discussion for some time and there are further discussions going on. Whether today’s news adds some enthusiasm to those discussions, we’ll wait and see.'

Either way, teams will have access to their boats for training, Murray confirmed. 'We will designate a place that we will deliver the boats to. It’s our responsibility to take them out of America and if we are going directly to Naples we will probably make arrangements to take the boats directly there. If the teams wish to make alternative arrangements they will be allowed to do so as long as they’re brought back to Naples,' he said.

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