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(Reuters) - New Zealand's America's Cup challenge suffered another blow on Wednesday with organizers of the next event in Bermuda cancelling a pre-America's Cup challenger regatta in Auckland that had been seen as crucial to funding of the team.
Team New Zealand head Grant Dalton said his organization would appeal the decision to strip Auckland of the event, which would have seen all of the competing syndicates racing in New Zealand shortly before the main regatta in Bermuda in 2017.
The America's Cup Event Authority had said earlier that the majority of the six syndicates had agreed to reduce the size of the boat from the previously agreed AC62 foiling catamarans to the smaller AC45 in order to cut costs.
The teams had also voted to concentrate all of the racing in Bermuda, the ACEA said in a statement.
Team New Zealand and Italian challengers Luna Rossa have protested at the decision to reduce the size of the boats without unanimous agreement.
Both have said they had already spent a considerable amount of money on design work on the bigger boats, while the Italian syndicate have also threatened to withdraw from the regatta.
New Zealand's challenge, expected to be around NZ$100 million ($74.63 million) for the 2017 campaign, has been previously part funded by the taxpayer, but after failing to lift the Cup in 2013 the team was told any future funding would be reduced and contingent on significant economic return for the country.
"We've made it clear previously that because of the limited leverage benefits of Bermuda for New Zealand, the Government will only be a major sponsor of... Team New Zealand if the qualifier event is held in Auckland," Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told Fairfax Media.
Dalton, however, said the New Zealand team would continue to fight the changes, particularly given they had a signed agreement to host the challenger event.
"Team New Zealand have filed an application to the Americas Cup Arbitration Panel in the belief that ACEA has breached their signed agreement and protocol obligations by discarding Auckland," Dalton said.
"We are fighting to keep Auckland as a qualifier.
"This isn't about government funding, this is not the end of... Team New Zealand, it's about enforcing a contract and bringing America's Cup racing to New Zealand as agreed by ACEA."
($1 = 1.3399 New Zealand dollars)
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly