WANTED: Billionaire who likes to splash cash on very fast boats

Published on June 6th, 2013

“NO cash, no splash.” That, says John Bertrand, is the very simple equation to explain why there are more Australians competing in the America’s Cup this year than from any other nation – and yet no Australian boat chasing line honours.

And he should know. Backed by Alan Bond’s millions, Bertrand and his crew sailed Australia II into sporting folklore in 1983 to end US domination in the event that dated back 132 years – well before the American Civil War.

“That’s the reality of it,” says Bertrand, who recently returned from a week with the America’s Cup teams in San Francisco.

“They are $100 million programs now, so it requires the next generation of multi-billionaires to get behind this. The multi-billionaires that sell their iron ore into China, they’re regional players. If they want to become global traders then that’s the sort of vehicle that they can use.

“If you win the America’s Cup you can press the flesh of any king or queen or Saudi Arabian prince in the world that you wish, such is the prestige.”
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Bertrand, who is preparing to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Australia II’s victory at a function organised by Yachting Australia in Sydney in September, says there are many Australians involved in the America’s Cup, led by Grant Simmer, the general manager of Oracle Racing, and skipper James Spithill. “Then we’ve got the new generation of (Olympians), Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge. But that’s not the issue – the money is,” he says, pointing to the 70ft catamarans preparing to compete for the cup in San Francisco in September.

While Bertrand describes the difference between today’s boats and those of his day as massive – “we were stuck to the water with 20 tonnes and our top speed was about 13 knots; these new boats, which are on foils and are carbon fibre, are at 40 knots” – he believes they are the way forward.

“The interesting thing about the America’s Cup is that the defender has the right to specify the rules of engagement. So they (Oracle Team USA) decided on a multi-hull 70ft long.

“I like it. The America’s Cup has always been about technology, and very much on the leading edge of technology.” – The Australian, read on

Editor’s note: We will forgive JB for stating that the Defender chooses the boat. The Deed of Gift states that it is the Challenger’s right to specify the ‘vessel’ and date of the races, but those rights have been circumvented in the modern era. Teams that win the Match now pre-arrange “hip-pocket” challenges with Clubs they can “work with”.

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