AC35: This Challenger of Record better be real

Published on October 17th, 2013

The only barrier to Australia regaining the America’s Cup at the next opportunity is full financial support for the challenge, according to John Bertrand, the first Australian to win the cup as the skipper of Australia II in 1983.

He said the Oatley Family’s first priority, which along with Hamilton Island Yacht Club have retained the role as Challenger of Record for the 35th America’s Cup, had to be to secure the financing to support a viable challenge.

“As we say in the America’s Cup, ‘No cash, no splash’,” Bertrand said to The Australian.

“Everything flows from that. If the money is there, the talent follows. To get the key people you have to have a financially viable challenge.”

Bertrand is convinced that Australia, after dominating last year’s Olympic sailing competition, has both the technical expertise and sailing talent to win back the world’s oldest sporting trophy.

He expects the Oatleys will have no difficulty luring back Australian sailors embedded in foreign teams once they have the financial backing to mount a competitive challenge.

There were four Australians on the winning Oracle Team USA boat last month, including skipper Jimmy Spithill and strategist Tom Slingsby.

Bertrand said the Oatley challenge was “healthy for the future of the America’s Cup” and he agreed with their vision for the next event.

In their negotiations with the defending Golden Gate Yacht Club over the rules of the next competition, the Oatleys want to make it cheaper for nations to mount a challenge and to include nationality rules to ensure each boat is truly representing its home nation.

Bertrand said the cost of a competitive challenge should be reined in from this year’s average of $100 million to a more manageable $50m by introducing standardised specifications for the boats.

But he expects the event to continue with a variation on the high performance foiling catamarans used this year. “These super high-speed projectiles were such a success,” he said.

He (and the Oatleys) would also like to see at least 50 per cent of each crew from the country challenging. “I think people want to see country versus country,” Bertrand said.

Editor’s note: The dates, type of boat, format and rules are subject to negotiation between the Challenger of Record and Defender, with the Protocol Governing the 35th America’s Cup anticipated to be released in early 2014. A reminder that the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup was Club Nautico di Roma, which then withdrew eight months after the Protocol was released.

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