British sailing writer Magnus Wheatley has labelled a move by Luna Rossa as "the cheapest of cheap shots" ahead of the Prada Cup final this weekend.
Luna Rossa will take on Ineos Team UK in the final for the right to battle Team New Zealand in the America's Cup, and they will do so with a potential advantage in their back pocket, with Ineos having a warning hanging over their heads.
The British syndicate were slapped with a warning and a fine early in the Prada Cup round robin, with Luna Rossa successfully filing a complaint of non-compliance against a sail system they used in the first round.
With the ruling, Team UK were issued with a 'yellow card', and a second infringement would cost them a race.
Attempts to overturn the yellow card were unsuccessful, and Wheatley argued that the claim of non-compliance was "patently ridiculous" and "will come back to haunt" Luna Rossa.
"In the interests of sport, I would strongly urge [Luna Rossa] to think again and get back around the table. The tone is wrong. The intent is clear. And once again, when an olive branch of reason is offered it has been rejected," Wheatley wrote.
"This will come back to haunt [Luna Rossa]. The gloves are off now. In the past, picking a fight with the British was pretty much fair game. Under Ben Ainslie, Grant Simmer and Jim Ratcliffe's reign you are playing with dynamite. The response will be fire and fury. You don't want to make Ben angry – that's a really bad idea as recent history attests."
Ainslie sought to get the yellow card dismissed, saying he had hoped the teams could have come to an agreement before the Prada Cup finals, but with Luna Rossa punching their ticket against American Magic, Ainslie said that essentially did away with any hope of a change.
"The way things have played out over the last couple of weeks, you know, head-to-head against Luna Rossa, and of course they have to agree to any changes. I don't think that's going to happen," Ainslie said.
"That's the game. We'll go into the Prada Cup final with our eyes wide open as to some of the tactics."
Wheatley says Luna Rossa are playing ugly – and predicts a comfortable Ineos win.
"It's the cheapest of cheap shots. And quite simply there will be no tears when Luna Rossa are clinically dispatched and remembered merely as a footnote in this America's Cup cycle. They are playing this game wrong, immersed in an obvious, dated narrative that is not befitting of this wonderful regatta set in these strained global times."
Ainslie said there would be an added focus on compliance leading into racing, and the addition of more available measurers following American Magic's departure was a welcome bonus at this pivotal point in the campaign.
"In terms of getting that scrutineering and that attention to detail, hopefully that will be that much more thorough. We will work very, very hard with them to make sure that the boat is absolutely compliant, as it should be," Ainslie said.