Hamo puts Whitsundays on world map as America’s Cup challenger
HAMILTON Island’s owners Bob and Sandy Oatley have catapaulted the Whitsunday region into the global spotlight by officially challenging for the next America’s Cup.
The father and son want to do what Australia II did three decades ago and win the coveted yacht racing trophy. Australia II’s historic America’s Cup win in 1983 ended the New York Yacht Club’s 132year reign as the Cup’s defender and was widely regarded as one of Australia’s greatest sporting moments.
The Oatleys filed their challenge for the trophy after Oracle Team USA, owned by billionaire Larry Ellison, won the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco last Wednesday, against Emirates Team New Zealand.
Rumours ran wild about the challenge but were not officially confirmed by the family until Tuesday morning.
Bob Oatley said as proud Australians and given Australia’s previous success in the America’s Cup, the Admiral’s Cup and Olympic yachting “we think it is time for our nation to be back in our sport’s pinnacle event”.
“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,” he said.
As the challenger of record for the 35th America’s Cup, expected to be held in 2016/17, the Hamilton Island Yacht Club’s (HIYC) Australian team has a chance to shape the future of the event and will represent all challengers in dealings with the defender, Oracle Team USA of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, (GGYC) San Francisco.
GGYC vice commodore and America’s Cup liaison Tom Ehman said the dates, type of boat, format and rules would be subject to negotiation between the challenger of record and the defender, following consultation with prospective challengers, venues, sponsors and other stakeholders.
“Both clubs are keen to have multiple challengers, as has been the norm since 1970 and to cut campaign costs for all teams, but first we must determine the venue, which, under the America’s Cup Deed of Gift, is decided by the defender,” he said.
GGYC and HIYC expect to have a protocol governing the 35th America’s Cup, agreed and published in the first few months of 2014.
Meanwhile, Hamilton Island CEO Glenn Bourke, a three-time America’s Cup challenger himself, said it was likely a new boat would be built. He expects the Americans will continue their preference for catamarans “given the excitement they produced this year”.
Mr Bourke isn’t ruling out trying to secure the services of James Spithill, this year’s winning skipper and the man behind one of the greatest come-from-behind wins in sporting history.
News of the challenge has been especially welcomed at a local level for the spectacular publicity it will undoubtedly bring. Whitsundays Marketing and Development CEO Danial Rochford said the potential for the Whitsundays in leveraging from an international event of such significance was enormous and would raise the profile of the region as a world-class sailing destination.
PRIZE TROPHY: Hamilton Island's owner Bob Oatley with America's Cup winning skipper James Spithill and Hamilton Island Yacht Club (HIYC) commodore Iain Murray, holding the prestigious America's Cup trophy, which was displayed at the Hamilton Island Yacht Club during Hamilton Island Race Week.