Harken Derm

America’s Cup: Challengers on hold until event details revealed

Published on April 6th, 2014

by Stuart Alexander, The Independent
A moment of truth is rushing up for Sir Ben Ainslie and his hopes of mounting a British challenge for the next America’s Cup. The format for the next Cup, AC35, in 2017 was expected in March. Latest whispers say it could be Monday or Tuesday. Even then, it will be incomplete.

Patrizio Bertelli has already committed €50 million of his Prada fashion house backing to Italy’s Luna Rossa. Sweden’s Torbjorn Tornqvist spent €120 million on the 2013 Artemis challenge which claimed the life of British gold and silver medallist Andrew Simpson.

Despite any complications caused by the United States targeting Russian oil company links following the upheaval in Crimea, Tornqvist is unlikely to be any less full-blooded in his backing for Simpson’s Olympic partner Iain Percy, who now leads the Artemis challenge.

Estimates on the defence budget at computer mogul Larry Ellison’s Oracle start at the eye-watering and rise to the astronomical. It will, to say the least, be adequate.

The Kiwis are in the midst of appointing a new board to Emirates Team New Zealand. The government has already put in NZ$5m. of pump priming, has been kept in the re-organisation planning loop throughout, and is apparently happy to see chief executive Grant Dalton moved upwards as his lieutenant Kevin Shoebridge takes over the day to day running.

And that leaves Sir Ben, the quadruple Olympic gold medallist (he has a silver, too), who played such a prominent role in the comeback from 1-8 down to 9-8 winning defenders of the America’s Cup, Oracle, needing to know how the next one will be played.

He has already been in the recruitment market with the help of finance from a mixture of private and corporate backers, but the full steam ahead lever cannot be activated until he knows more exactly the scale of the task ahead of him.

He is not alone; but the quirky sailing trophy, which dates back to 1851, is not subject to anything like any other major sports event. There is no set time, place, equipment or even race format.

It can, and does, change every time, meaning that Ainslie is at the mercy of a strange negotiation process between the defender and a so-called Challenger of Record, this time the Hamilton Island Yacht Club of Australia. Iain Murray, who was boss of the racing management team in San Francisco last year, heads Bob Oatley’s Challenger of Record group and has held talks individually with each of the teams, but never as a group.

That means that both the defender and the lead challenger will have had valuable design information on the 2017 boat, expected to be a 62-foot catamaran which can lift on to foils to skim across the top of the water, ahead of everyone else. Introducing some standardization of anything from parts of the wing sail or other structures would benefit everyone equally.

But that is of limited value until a decision has been taken on where the next America’s Cup will be staged. That may take several more months. San Francisco conditions are different to Newport, Chicago, and especially Honolulu. – Full report

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