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LONDON (Reuters) - Italian challenger Luna Rossa angrily pulled out of the 35th America's Cup on Thursday in protest at a vote to reduce the size of the catamarans to be raced in the 2017 event.
"Following a careful evaluation of the serious implications of this unprecedented intiative, Team Luna Rossa confirms that it will withdraw from the 35th America's Cup," the team said in a statement.
Luna Rossa, backed by Italian luxury goods group Prada, were one of four European teams hoping to take the cup from holders Oracle Team USA in Bermuda.
Team New Zealand, led by Grant Dalton, and Luna Rossa had protested the decision to reduce the size of the boats without unanimous agreement, with the Italian challenger warning it would have to withdraw if the change was made.
The change was then passed by a majority vote of the six teams currently entered.
The Italian syndicate said it considered the procedure adopted to be "illegitimate...and founded on an evident abuse of process."
"This is an attempt to introduce boats that are substantially monotypes and in total contrast with the ultra-centennial tradition of the America's Cup," it added.
It said the change, from 62 foot to 48 foot boats, was a "waste of important resources already invested based on the rules that were sanctioned last June".
The 34th America's Cup in San Francisco in 2013 saw 72-foot boats competing.
Organisers said the new catamarans would be more manoeuvrable than before while cost savings could also be made.
"The claim to reduce costs reveals itself as a pure pretext aimed to annihilate research and development achievements of some teams and to favour instead preconceived technical and sporting positions," said Luna Rossa.
Team principal Patrizio Bertelli said painful decisions sometimes had to be made.
"In sports, as in life, one cannot always go for compromise after compromise after compromise," he added.
Britain's most successful Olympic sailor Ben Ainslie supported the move to smaller boats even though his BAR team were already working on their AC62 design.
"Despite this investment of money and resource, we voted in favor of the change because we believe it is in the best interests of the America’s Cup and the sport of sailing," the team said in a statement.
Former America's Cup challengers Alinghi described Luna Rossa's withdrawal as a "sad day for the America's Cup."
"Luna Rossa are a team of passion, skill and determination -- all the qualities needed in this great competition. They inspired us to compete in 2000, and to win. The Cup is diminished without you, our friends," a statement said.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Martyn Herman