(Reuters) - America's Cup organisers said on Thursday the Challenger Series final between Luna Rossa and INEOS Team UK will resume this weekend without spectators as Auckland remains under COVID-19 restrictions.
Racing on Wednesday was postponed after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday announced a three-day lockdown in Auckland after three COVID-19 cases emerged, the first local infections since late January.
New Zealand began easing the restrictions at midnight on Wednesday but with its largest city still at a Level 2 alert America's Cup Events (ACE) sought to delay racing until the restrictions were lifted further.
Luna Rossa, who hold a 4-0 lead over INEOS and need just three more wins to earn the right to face Team New Zealand for the America's Cup, had rejected the proposal, ACE said in a statement https://www.americascup.com/en/news/1085_ACE-CURRENT-RACE-SCHEDULE-UPDATE released on Thursday.
The Italian team on Wednesday said it wanted the series to resume even if it meant races would be held "behind closed doors" and that the title should be awarded to the winner or points leader by Feb. 24.
ACE said the Italians were "inflexible to a change" in terms of the race schedule. As Challenger of Record, the rules cannot be changed without Luna Rossa's approval.
"This is a disappointing situation, it is my responsibility to do my best to run the event with the best interests of the public and all stakeholders in mind," ACE Chair Tina Symmans said.
"So with the current impasse, while not agreeing with the Challenger of Record, we want to see the regatta completed on the water."
Two courses have been ruled out for the remainder of the series, to mitigate any chance of large public gatherings on the shore.
INEOS said they would be ready to compete this weekend.
"Whilst INEOS Team UK has not been consulted, we fully respect and will abide by the decision of ACE and will be ready to race as requested," they said in a statement.
The America's Cup is due to start on March 6.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)