The first sailing race in the America’s Cup regatta in San Francisco on Sunday will only have one team competing after the other team announced today that it will sit out the race because of a dispute over proposed rule changes.

Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge team was scheduled to compete against Emirates Team New Zealand at 12:15 p.m. Sunday to begin the Louis Vuitton Cup, a series of races between the three challengers to Oracle Team USA for the America’s Cup.

However, Luna Rossa Challenge officials announced on their website today that the team is sitting out the opening race as it waits for the cup’s International Jury to hear a complaint about modified rules regarding rudders on the 72-foot vessels.

Team skipper Max Sirena had said at a Friday news conference in San Francisco that his crew would probably not race Sunday but said they would wait to make to make a final decision until today.

The team said in a previous statement that the proposed changes to the rudders “have nothing to do with safety, since their only reason and effect (is) to increase the speed and performance of the boat.”

The proposal is among 37 recommendations made by race organizers following the May 9 death of Sweden-based team Artemis Racing crewmember Andrew “Bart” Simpson.

Simpson, a 36-year-old Olympic sailor from Great Britain, died after the Artemis boat capsized during a practice run in the Bay. He became trapped underneath the overturned vessel and could not be revived after being brought back to shore.

Artemis Racing officials have said the team will not be able to join the Louis Vuitton Cup races until later this month at the earliest while they repair and test their damaged boat.

The International Jury, a five-person panel that resolves disputes over rules for the sailing races, is set to meet and discuss the Luna Rossa Challenge complaint on Monday.

Sunday’s opening race appears set to go on with just Emirates Team New Zealand competing, according to America’s Cup officials.

Race organizers said the team will need to start the race and sail the course to collect the first point in the Louis Vuitton Cup.

America’s Cup CEO Stephen Barclay denounced the Italian team’s decision to sit out the race.

“This isn’t unexpected, but it’s still disappointing,” Barclay said in a statement.

“The people really hurt by this are the fans, who have waited for more than two years to see the first race in these spectacular AC72 catamarans,” he said.

Race officials had also scheduled time trials involving the 72-foot boats on Friday morning on the Bay, but they were canceled because of high winds.

Opening ceremonies for the races took place Thursday. The winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup will face Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup Finals in September.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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