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Regatta director defends America's Cup rule changes

Regatta director Iain Murray speaks during a news conference in San Francisco on May 14, 2013
Regatta director Iain Murray speaks during a news conference in San Francisco on May 14, 2013. On the eve of America's Cup opening festivities, Murray has insisted that protests over some of his safety rules are without merit.

On the eve of America's Cup opening festivities, regatta director Iain Murray insisted that protests over some of his safety rules are without merit.

Murray said Wednesday that everything was in place for racing to begin on Sunday in the Louis Vuitton Cup, the series of races in which three teams are set to battle for the right to take on defenders Oracle Team USA in the America's Cup finals in September.

But the spectre of the rules dispute shadowed what should be a celebratory kick-off to the competition for the oldest international sporting trophy.

On-shore opening ceremonies were set for Thursday, America's Independence Day holiday, with a fleet parade on San Francisco Bay to follow on Friday.

The America's Cup catamaran
Graphic illustrating the AC72 class catamaran used in the America's Cup starting July 7, 2013.

But Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa of Italy, scheduled to duel in the first race on Sunday, have both made formal protests saying Murray exceeded his authority in making 37 safety rule proposals in the wake of British sailor Andrew Simpson's death in May.

Simpson died in the May 9 training accident in which the AC72 catamaran of Swedish syndicate Artemis Racing capsized, and Murray said Wednesday that the rule changes aimed at preventing another such tragedy were within his brief.

"I was appointed regatta director by the challengers, and accepted in that role by the defender. I work on behalf of all the teams," he said.

"Disappointingly, for competitive reasons, two of the teams are now protesting over some of these safety recommendations. But I don't believe you can pick and choose. These safety recommendations are a package and together they increase safety for our sailors and they are now rules of the event."

Murray disputed claims that the rules regarding rudder elevators -- which affect how high boats can rise out of the water and, by extension, how fast they can go -- are performance rather than safety issues.

"When the safety review panel met with the teams in May, all of them acknowledged that deeper rudders, with larger wings, add more control," he said.

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