Australian America's Cup challengers aiming to revive spirit of 1983

America's Cup challengers Hamilton Island will try to lure back top Australian talent

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 9:25am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 4:13am

Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club will push to ensure the next America's Cup does not boil down to a "race of money" with Larry Ellison's Oracle Team USA, but will fight hard to woo the country's top sailing talent back from the defenders.

Hamilton Island, owned by wine magnate and sailing enthusiast Bob Oatley and run by his son Sandy, was confirmed by the Golden Gate Yacht Club as the Challenger of Record for the 35th America's Cup late on Monday.

The 34th Cup that wrapped up last week had only three challengers, with the costs of the campaign, which was raced in super-fast AC72 catamarans, put in excess of US$100 million and cited as the main reason why so few teams went to San Francisco.

As the Challenger of Record, Hamilton Island will help shape the rules for the next regatta with Oracle.

"It did cost a lot, the technology, but I think they've taken it into the next realm of sailing," Sandy Oatley said. "I think the way they've developed it in this case has made it very exciting and all the people who were able to watch it were absolutely amazed. I think [overseas competitors] are all welcoming the fact of trying to contain the costs.

"My father Bob was saying, for a sailing race, we're trying to get the emphasis 100 per cent on sailing, with 50 per cent on the sailing expertise, 40 per cent the boat and 10 per cent in technology and development.

"We can put some boxes around the boats and the sails so it doesn't become a race of money."

Forbes has ranked Oatley, who made his fortune first as a coffee trader and then as a vintner, as Australia's 25th richest with just under US$1 billion. Ellison is the world's fifth richest man with US$43 billion.

While Bob Oatley has entered a series of successful super-maxi yachts in the Sydney-to-Hobart long-distance ocean race, ensuring funds to compete with Oracle will be paramount.

Sandy Oatley said the Australian challenge was yet to sign any corporate backers, and like Team New Zealand did, would seek government support.

Hamilton Island's challenge comes 30 years after Australia II's 1983 victory, which ended the 132-year-old US chokehold over the famous sailing trophy.

Australian sailors have been in force at America's Cup challenges since, however, and Oatley said luring the likes of Oracle captain James Spithill and strategist Tom Slingsby would be a high priority.

"We don't know contractually how the Oracle boys are all tied up but that will all happen in the future and once we work out the protocols for the 35th race, we'll see," he said.

"[1983] really brought Australia together and it came home to us last week ... It was a great thing what they did and we're hoping to do the same again."