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America’s Cup sponsor seeks a refund

Louis Vuitton, the French retailer that has been the primary backer of the America's Cup, wants a $3 million refund because so few teams have entered the competition.

The San Francisco Business Times reported Wednesday that one of the Cup’s most prestigious and longest-running sponsors had initially agreed to a $10 million sponsorship. But that contract was based on at least eight teams taking part in the Louis Vuitton Cup, a round-robin playoff to determine which team will sail against Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup.

There are three teams officially competing in the race: Italy’s Luna Rossa, Sweden’s Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand. Louis Vuitton can get a $1 million rebate for each team less than six that participate, a Cup source told the Business Times, meaning the company is entitled to $3 million.

If any teams follow through with threats to pull out, it would be entitled to more money back. The Italian team has refused to sail until a five-member jury of the International Sailing Federation announces a decision regarding a protest over new rudder wing rules.

The decision is expected to be posted today on the Cup’s website, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The announcement is expected to come a little over an hour before Luna Rossa is expected to make its first appearance of the regatta. Meanwhile, Sweden's Artemis Racing, the scheduled opponent, is still trying to put its boat together after a tragic wreck in May that killed British sailor Andrew "Bart" Simpson.

Regatta director Iain Murray had made wider, heavier rudder wings part of the new safety rules he issued May 22, two weeks after the tragedy.
Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa both protested that edict on the grounds that it was a change in the class rules that required unanimous consent by the teams. They contend that the change wouldn't make the boats safer and could give Oracle Team USA a competitive advantage because of the special design of its two boats.

After a pair of solo sails by Team New Zealand, the first genuine race of the challenger series won't come until Saturday, when Luna Rossa meets the Kiwis.