Italian media are reporting that a media conference will be called late Wednesday afternoon (local time) to announce a return to the America's Cup by the three time Italian challenger, Luna Rossa, headed be Patrizio Bertelli.
Also participating at the announcement will be Emirates Team New Zealand's CEO Grant Dalton, and the two teams are expected to announce a working agreement.
Miuccia Prada smashes a bottle of Gran Cuvée Brut 2002, a Franciacorta from the Bellavista wine cellars, on the bow of the new boat, with her husband Patrizio Bertelli at her side. - Luna Rossa Challenge 2007 S.L.@ Carlo Borlenghi Click Here to view large photo
Recently Prada SA posted a notice on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange saying that the Italian fashion house, of which Bertelli is CEO, saying that the Italian company had been invited to become a sponsor of the America's Cup team to the tune of Euro 40million (USD55million/NZD70million).
That amount is believed to be less than the sum required for a full challenge to the tune of about USD30million.
The current Protocol does not appear to prohibit formal working agreements between Challengers, however they are unprecedented although some formal arrangements have been put in place.
Of course the conditions of the Protocol can be changed at any time by the Defender, provided the Challenger of Record does not veto the change. The other challengers do not have formal voting rights on any change as of right.
Although details of the move are not announced, they could be ruled against retrospectively if they were felt to give an unfair advantage to the teams involved.
The suggestion that Emirates Team NZ were going to tune up against Alinghi ahead of the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup Final were meet with outrage from other Challengers, however the relationship between the Challenger of Record Artemis Racing and the Defender Oracle Racing is regarded by many as being cosy - on a bad day. Indicative of how the 'enemy of my enemy is my friend' wheel has turned in the latest edition of the America's Cup.
Luna Rossa have been competing in the Extreme Sailing Series, sailing Extreme 40's. Patrizio Bertelli initially declared he was not interested in entering his team for their fourth America's Cup, however clearly changes that have been made to the rules have made the event more attractive.
It was also announced separately that there will be an America's Cup World Series Event staged in Naples in April 2012, and a second event is expected to be held there in 2013. The ACWS will also hold an event in a second Italian venue, Venice in May 2012, with a second said to be promised for 2013, giving Italy four events in the ACWS with just one unannounced entry in the regatta.
Luna Rossa contested the 2000, 2003 and 2007 Louis Vuitton Cups. Their best performance was in 2000, when they became the Challenger in Team New Zealand's first Defence, in Auckland.
Currently there are eight teams entered in the 34th America's Cup. Only four or five are expected to be able to generate sufficient sponsorship to commit to an AC72 program and be on the starting line for the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup in July 2013 in San Francisco. The addition of Luna Rossa with a Prada sponsorship would tick both columns of the ACWS and America's Cup ledger, and get the Louis Vuitton Cup closer to its rumoured contracted requirement of needing eight teams, without Cup organizers sustaining a monetary penalty for each incremental shortfall..