America's Cup: Australians confirmed as next challenger

Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team NZ doing battle in the 34th America's Cup.
Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team NZ doing battle in the 34th America's Cup.

For the first time in over a decade Australia is bidding to win back the America's Cup, with millionaire winemaker Bob Oatley and his son Sandy backing an attempt lodged through Hamilton Island Yacht Club.

Hamilton Island Yacht Club was on Tuesday accepted as the Challenger of Record for the 35th staging of the event by holders the Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco.

It means Hamilton Island YC will represent all challengers in dealings with the defender Oracle Team USA owned by billionaire Larry Ellison.

The Australian entry will still have to triumph in a challenger series if they are to contest the America's Cup against Oracle Team USA.

The Oatleys submitted a challenge with Team USA as soon as Oracle crossed the line to retain the Cup against Team New Zealand last week, winning the series contested on San Francisco Bay by 9-8 after overcoming an 8-1 deficit.

The American boat was skippered by Australian James Spithill, who had three of his compatriots on board including 2012 Olympic Laser gold medallist Tom Slingsby.

Team USA also boasted a broader Australian contingent that included coach Darren Bundock and general manager Grant Simmer, who was a crew member aboard Australia II in 1983 and has now been a part of four America's Cup wins.

Bob Oatley, who attended a lunch in Sydney last Thursday to mark the 30th anniversary of the America's Cup triumph by Alan Bond's Australia II, said the green and gold influence in Team USA's victory had piqued the interest of the Australian public.

"Given Australia's previous success in the America's Cup, the Admirals Cup and Olympic yachting, and as proud Australians, we think it is time for our nation to be back in our sport's pinnacle event,'' Bob Oatley said in a statement.

"The recently completed America's Cup in San Francisco has revolutionised the sport for sailors and fans, and we were excited to see how many Australians played key roles on the teams and in the regatta organisation.''

The Oatley's legacy on Australian racing is well known - their succession of yachts named Wild Oats have dominated ocean racing in Australia for years, including having won six of the last eight Sydney-Hobart races.

Australia last attempt to break back into the America's Cup was in 2000 off Auckland, when Syd Fischer fielded a youthful crew skippered by then 19-year-old James Spithill.

The team, Young Australia, finished second last in the Louis Vuitton Cup series which decided the challenger to Team New Zealand.

Golden Gate Yacht club Vice Commodore Tom Ehman says the specifics of the next America's Cup, including the dates, type of boat, format and rules, are subject to negotiation between the two teams.

"We are delighted to have Hamilton Island Yacht Club and the Oatley's leading Australia back into the America's Cup for the first time since 2000,'' Ehman said in a statement.

"Hamilton Island's challenge was filed on the day Australia was celebrating the 30th anniversary of Australia II's historic win in the 1983 America's Cup off Newport, RI, which ended New York Yacht Club's 132-year reign as the Cup's defender.''


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