Team New Zealand have been boosted in their bid to mount another America's Cup challenge, with Glenn Ashby announcing his intention to stay with the syndicate.
Speaking at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Melbourne, Ashby revealed he had been approached by Iain Murray's Team Australia but only after he had already re-committed with Team New Zealand.
The Australian was one of the key members of Team New Zealand's campaign in San Francisco this year, in which they fell agonisingly short of bringing home the Auld Mug after defenders Oracle pulled off an incredible comeback, filling the role of wingsail trimmer. The giant 40m tall wingsails were effectively the engines of the boat, powering the impressive AC72 catamarans to speeds upwards of 45 knots.
Ashby was initially a member of Oracle's successful crew in 2010, coaching Jimmy Spithill in multihull sailing after US team built a giant 90-ft trimaran for the Deed of Gift challenge against Swiss team Alinghi. But with Team New Zealand able to guarantee Ashby a role on the boat, the 14-time world multihull champion made the move to Team New Zealand for the 34th edition of the Cup.
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With Australia making their long-awaited return to the America's Cup for the 35th edition, signing on as challengers of record for the next event, they are looking to draw some of the nation's top sailing talent away from other syndicates. Spithill, Ashby, Oracle strategist Tom Slingsby and wing trimmer Kyle Langford all played key roles at this years regatta in San Francisco.
Team Zealand were able to move quickly to re-sign Ashby in the wake of their devastating 9-8 loss in September through the help of a $5 million grant from the Government to secure the services of key members of their design and sail team while syndicate head Grant Dalton tries to secure the commercial sponsorship needed to have another crack at wresting the Auld Mug off Oracle.
Oracle are expected to make an announcement over the rules, format, venue and date for the next America's Cup early next year, which will also be a factor in determining whether Team NZ challenger again.
Meanwhile, the Brits believe they are on track with their fundraising efforts as they target a return to the America's Cup.
Sir Ben Ainslie, who was added to the battling Oracle afterguard midway through this year's regatta and was credited as being a large part of the team's dramatic turnaround, is hoping to put a team together to mount a challenge to bring the trophy back to the United Kingdom, where the America's Cup began in 1851.
"The fund-raising is going well. We are sort of on our target - if you like - of where we wanted to be at this time, but there is still a huge amount of work to do to secure the right people and move forward." Ainslie told Sky Sports News.
"Obviously it is a lot of money to raise to have a competitive team for the future, but we have had a tremendous amount of support from the public. Coming back from San Franciso, it was amazing to see that, globally, the America's Cup really took hold."