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America's Cup could move to Italy if Auckland not ready

AUCKLAND (Reuters) - The next America's Cup regatta will be sailed in Auckland in 2021 in 75-foot monohull yachts but only if New Zealand's largest city can build the infrastructure needed to stage the regatta, holders Team New Zealand said on Friday.

They took international sport's oldest trophy off Oracle Team USA with a stunning 7-1 victory in Bermuda's Great Sound in June in a regatta raced in high-powered foiling catamarans.

TNZ boss Grant Dalton released the protocol, or rules, for the 36th America's Cup at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron on Friday. They had been written in consultation with the official Challengers, Italian syndicate Luna Rosa.

Dalton said the date was yet to be confirmed and they had not signed a host city agreement as Auckland still had no infrastructure for the America's Cup base and they needed to start construction by the middle of 2018 for a 2021 regatta.

"The intention is to hold the Cup in 2021," Dalton told a news conference. "At this stage no infrastructure exists to hold it by that date.

"We (New Zealand) have just come out of an election but there has been some planning going on. Infrastructure needs to be started by mid-2018."

Dalton added that if Auckland was unable to complete preparations in time, the regatta would be moved to Italy, but it was not a warning shot to the government.

"We need to give certainties to teams," he said.

Britain's Ben Ainslie welcomed the change and said his Land Rover BAR team are set to launch their own challenge, with backing from their commercial partners.

Ainslie, the most successful ever Olympic sailor, waged an unsuccessful campaign for the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda.#

He said Land Rover BAR would begin work on its design preparations, although they would have to wait until the end of March for the class rules before they start in earnest.

"We are comfortable about the move to monohull," Ainslie said on a conference call, adding the new craft would be "a monohull of the likes you have never really seen before".

NATIONALITY CLAUSE

Dalton, who had already signaled his desire for a nationality clause, said each crew of 10-12 sailors must be contain at least 20 percent from the challenging country.

The rest of the team must have established residency criteria, which Dalton said was determined by living in the country for 380 days between Sept. 1 2018 and Sept. 1 2020.

"The most significant America's Cup in my time was when Australia 2 beat Liberty in Newport, Rhode Island in 1983," Dalton added. "It was country versus country.

"Countries need to be encouraged to grow their own talent. It's not an attempt to stop yachtsmen make a living but for a country to look at its own first before they go overseas."

The specifications for the new boats would be released on Nov. 30.

Dalton added that each syndicate could build two boats and there would be pre-regattas in 2019 and 2020. Contrary to what he told Italian media two weeks ago, he said there was still the possibility for "cyclors" to be used.

TNZ used "cyclors", grinders who sat on upright bike stations and used their legs rather than arms to generate the hydraulic power needed to sail the foiling catamarans, in their successful challenge.

Last week he was quoted as telling La Stampa that "grinders will return", indicating the cyclors would not feature, but said on Friday the rules did not preclude them.

Races for the next regatta were likely to be "longer than Bermuda", which were typically about 20 minutes, but Dalton said they would be less than an hour.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Additional reporting by Alexander Smith in London; Editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond)