America’s Cup 2021: Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena concerned over fractured relationships following Prada Cup rescheduling drama

Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena is relieved that the Prada Cup final will continue on Saturday, but feels the extended conflict over the rescheduling has done further damage to an already fractious relationship.

The saga developed an unseemly tone on Wednesday and Thursday, with all kinds of implications conveyed through rival press releases and interviews, and words like “honour” “fairness” “respect” and “sportsmanship” thrown into the equation.

Something that might normally be hammered out behind closed doors became uncomfortably public, provoking accusations and counter-claims.

Sirena is grateful that America’s Cup Events (ACE) backed down from their proposal to reschedule the races to next weekend, which would have also entailed moving the America’s Cup match, but said the process had been avoidable.

“I’m pleased, I thank them [ACE], but it was unnecessary,” Sirena told the Herald. “Everyone was ready to go and the teams have been sailing since Tuesday. So it has been hard for me to accept.”

Sirena also rejected the inference that the Challenger of Record’s (COR) stance reflected a single-minded desire to see Luna Rossa progress from the Prada Cup final.

“We are here to race and there was no real reason why we shouldn’t race,” said Sirena. “They always drop on us all this bullshit about fairness and loyalty. We are the first ones that want to go out on the water, even today. There is no way Luna Rossa wants to win without even racing.

“These guys are pretty good from a PR point of view; they should open a PR company to be honest.”

The relationship between ACE and COR, and by extension Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa, has been difficult for months, with the parties at loggerheads over several different issues, and Sirena doesn’t know if it is repairable.

“For sure, this doesn’t help,” said Sirena. “It’s like having a family where the husband and wife are fighting every day for no reason. So why do you keep staying together…for what? It is hard to keep a relationship with someone, hard to have a dialogue.”

ACE argued they wanted to shift the event dates to have the biggest possible event – hopefully under Covid-19 level 1 in Auckland – and ACE Chair Tina Symmans told the Herald on Thursday that the economic impact of racing under alert level 2 would be significant, with the America’s Cup village closed this weekend, limited patronage in bars, restaurants and cafes and a reduction in domestic tourism.

Sirena agreed it was unfortunate there would be less people in the village – and no crowds on North Head – but said the global audience was paramount.

“We invest millions in TV productions and the TV contract,” said Sirena. “But now that production and all the TV channels around the world…we don’t care about them?

“Before it was the main goal for Grant Dalton and ACE and now you want to postpone a week of racing and tell all the television stations worldwide, ‘I decided not to race this week’.

“It’s like the Australian Open. That’s up and running. Why postpone if you can run the event? We built three different levels of [Covid-19] protocols to operate under, which we agreed months ago.”

Sirena also rejected the notion that Luna Rossa had not been respectful to the people of New Zealand, whose diligence around Covid-19 enabled this event to be staged.

“You cannot always drop on us, [that] since day one we are the bad guys, the ones that don’t respect the nation,” said Sirena. “I saw a Breakfast TV show [this week] with three journalists saying Luna Rossa should leave the country. Really? Is that the game we want to play? Do you know how much money we have invested in this campaign and in this country?”

Sirena estimates that Luna Rossa have added 20 million Euros to the New Zealand economy, since the first team members arrived in July.

Sirena also wondered why Ineos Team UK had been supportive of delaying the Prada Cup final, until Auckland returned to alert level 1.

“As a sailor and a competitor, you should want to race as soon as possible,” said Sirena.

“What is the difference for them? Why are they keen to go out sailing, but not racing?.”

Luna Rossa lead Ineos Team UK 4-0 in the first-to-seven Prada Cup final, with the first of two races on Saturday scheduled for 4:15pm.

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