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America's Cup- Spithill says that Challengers were offered second AC62

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz on 12 Jun 2014
Once again Jimmy Spithill and Team New Zealand are involved in a face-off over the America's Cup ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget © http://photo.americascup.com/
In an interview broadcast on NewstalkZB Thursday afternoon, NZT, Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill says that the America's Cup Challengers were offered the option of having a second AC62 but turned it down.

Spithill says the offer is still possibly open to acceptance by the Challenger group.

Spithill's comments came in a lengthy interview, conducted in New Zealand's most popular drive time radio show, after he was asked about the fairness of the Defenders being allowed two AC62 boats and the Challengers only one.

'We did offer a the exact same option to the Challengers - a second boat under the same conditions as ours. But it was declined. Obviously it was declined because they are all racing against the other boats in the Semis and Finals, and its a cost saving thing.

'I think we would still stand by that offer if they (the Challengers) wanted to reconsider', Spithill added.

The double-America's Cup winner did not elaborate exactly on who declined the offer - whether it was the Challenger of Record, Hamilton Island Yacht Club, or the Challengers as a group in consultation with Hamilton Island YC.

If the offer is still on the table and is accepted, it would eliminate a major criticism of the Protocol that was announced just over a week ago.

Earlier this week, other major changes were made to the Protocol that gave the appointment of key race officials to the Competitors Forum.

That move eliminated another major criticism of the Protocol - being control of officials by the Defender.

Much of the interview focussed on the Team New Zealand leadership question which is being continually referenced by Oracle Team USA via social media. Many believe this is part of a concerted campaign by the Defender to destabilize the New Zealand team which has been in existence for almost 30 years, and which came within an ace of taking the America's Cup off Oracle Team USA in September 2013.

Last Friday morning on Television New Zealand's breakfast show, Spithill said several people could take over the management of Team New Zealand. Challenged by show host, Larry Williams to name those people, the Australian rattled off a list of sailors - all but one were ex the 1995 and 2000 Team New Zealand program who left to join Alinghi.

They included Brad Butterworth, Simon Daubney, Warwick Fleury, Murrays Jones. Three of those names subsequently joined Oracle Team USA, and others including Butterworth, are still believed to be close associates of Oracle Team USA CEO, Russell Coutts.

Spithill also attacked Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton, saying that Oracle Team USA had a good productive relationship with all the prospective Challengers except Team New Zealand. He claimed Dalton was continually talking down the America's Cup and that could be the reason the team was having trouble getting sponsorship backing. Dalton has always claimed that without a venue and Match dates named, it is not possible to go to sponsors with a definite proposal to raise sponsorship funding.

In the meantime the team, along with all Challengers have to pay USD3million in Performance Bonds and Entry fees by December 1, 2014. That has been raised as an obstacle by the New Zealand team which, at this stage of the America's Cup cycle is not cash-rich.

In the 34th America's Cup Protocol, the first editions also had a requirement for high entry fees and performance bonds. In fact, these were USD1million entry fee and EUR3million Performance Bonds, all payable before the first AC72's were allowed to be launched. The substantial payments were slashed to just a $100,000 entry fee after they were perceived as an impediment to entry by several potential challengers.

A respected international UK yachting correspondent, Stuart Alexander, reported that another long standing Challenger, Luna Rossa had described the 35th America's Cup Protocol as 'naked dictatorship,' contrary to Spithill's assertions about Team New Zealand being a lone voice against the document.

There may be further comment from the Italian team at a launch function tonight to be broadcast online at 12.00CET

To hear Part 1 of the interview click here

To hear Part 2 of the interview click here

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