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Sailing-NZ, Luna Rossa to appeal America's Cup changes

By Greg Stutchbury and Ronnie Cohen

WELLINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Team New Zealand and Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge plan to appeal late changes to the America's Cup sailing regatta in San Francisco following a fatal training accident by Swedish challenger Artemis in May.

Team New Zealand (TNZ) said they would ask the America's Cup jury to determine whether regatta director Iain Murray had exceeded his jurisdiction in unilaterally changing the AC72 class rules.

The four teams competing in the regatta, due to begin in less than two weeks, have met with mediators to reach an agreement on 37 safety measures that Murray was seeking to introduce following the death of Artemis crewman Andrew Simpson.

TNZ said they agreed with all but two of the rule changes, which related to additional weight and the use of a piece of equipment called rudder elevators that control the high-tech super-fast AC72 catamarans when they hydro-foil.

"Changes to the rule so close to the start of racing require the unanimous consent of all eligible competitors," TNZ said in a statement on Friday.

The challenger series, the Louis Vuitton Cup, begins on July 7 with the winner meeting America's Cup defender Oracle Team USA, backed by software billionaire and Oracle Corp co-founder Larry Ellison.

"Team New Zealand supports all the other safety recommendations, which have now been approved by competitors, including the reduction of wind limits and various new rules to ensure enhanced crew safety," TNZ added.

"However it is our view that the contentious class rule changes are performance-related rules not necessary to ensure safety."

Italian challenger Luna Rossa Challenge is also preparing a protest over the rudder elevator and the yacht weights, said Luis Saenz, the team's general counsel.

He repeated comments from earlier this week that Luna Rossa would fight the jury's decision in court if it agrees with Murray's changes.

America's Cup Authority CEO Stephen Barclay dismissed the two teams' protests and said all of the rule changes were made based on safety.

He said there is no chance the dispute could lead to a late start of the regatta.

"This is what we expect at this time of the Americas Cup - teams posturing regarding competitive reasons," Barclay told reporters.

"More area on the elevators makes it safer. The bows of the boat don't dip into the water as much," Barclay said.

"Now the teams are looking at it purely for competitive reasons. Some teams like it, some teams don't."

TNZ and Barclay said the jury had jurisdiction over the issue and their decision would be binding.

"We look forward to the jury determining the issue so, whatever the decision is, we can get on with the racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup starting July 7," TNZ managing director Grant Dalton said.

(Additional reporting by Noel Randewich in San Francisco; Editing by Ian Ransom/Greg Stutchbury)

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