Sailing: Ainslie says he wants fully compliant yacht ahead of Challenger final

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FILE PHOTO: British Olympic sailor Ainslie, listens during a news conference to announce the launch of a British America's Cup sailing team in London, Britain

(Reuters) - INEOS Team UK skipper Ben Ainslie said the British team must ensure its vessel is fully compliant with the rules or risk forfeiting a race in the best-of-13 Challenger Series final against Italian side Luna Rossa starting on Feb. 13.

Ainslie's team is carrying a penalty after Luna Rossa spotted an irregularity on the mainsail of "Britannia" during the first round-robin race last month and successfully filed a complaint of non-compliance.

Another infringement could cost INEOS Team UK a race.

The 43-year-old suggested Luna Rossa were resorting to "gamesmanship" in looking for minor irregularities ahead of the series final, which determines who will face America's Cup holders Team New Zealand from March 6.

"There's a bit going on there, in terms of classic America's Cup gamesmanship, in terms of 'can the Italians try to use it against us?' – I don't know," Ainslie told the Times.

"We've just got to make sure that our boat is 100% compliant and work with the measurers to ensure that, which is what we have been doing all along.

"We would always do everything we possibly can to make sure that our boat is rules compliant before it goes racing anyway. But I certainly hope this doesn't become a factor, because that's not how the racing should be defined."

Luna Rossa stormed into the final of the Challenger Series after completing a 4-0 sweep of American Magic while INEOS Team UK advanced with a spotless record in the round-robin stage.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel)