Chinese in talks to mount America’s Cup challenge
by Philip Reynolds
Russell Coutts has revealed that there could be three new teams joining the challenge for the 2017 edition of the America’s Cup in Bermuda.
A Chinese team is one of three talking to cup organisers about joining the six existing America's Cup teams so far entered, Coutts told the Reuters news agency.
New Zealander Coutts, a five times winner of the Auld Mug, CEO of 2013 winners Oracle Team USA and chief executive of the America's Cup Events Authority, was speaking at an event organised by British watchmakers Bremont, the cup’s official time partners.
He said: "This new entity that is looking to come in would be from mainland China, which would be fantastic."
Coutts did, however, stress that it was important the entry bar was set to a high level.
"I don't really want the Chinese to come in if they are not going to be competitive. I think it would do more harm than good.
"You'd be better off bringing them in in the next cycle in my view, making sure that they have a really competitive team and are going to make a good show of it."
Of the three potential entries, Coutts was hopeful that one of them would "get across the line" but that was likely to be the limit.
"I frankly don't think there's much more room at the moment… for this cycle, but ultimately it would be great to have 12 teams out there battling away."
Interest in sailing in China is growing, with China's Dongfeng Race Team challenging strongly in the recent Volvo Ocean Race and CCTV television set to broadcast all stages of the 35th America's Cup, starting with this weekend's World Series event in Portsmouth.
"I went to mainland China for the first time a few years ago and at that stage I would have said 'look, there's just no way sailing here can develop fast enough'," said Coutts.
"I then went back there and was just staggered at what had happened in the two years since.
"There is a transformation going on over there and quite a lot of development within the marine industry and a lot of interest from some of the owners to get more active in international sailing."
Previous Chinese teams have had no success.
"We've had Chinese teams in the past and they've frankly been a bit of an embarrassment for the people involved. We can't afford to have that," Coutts said.
Any new entrant would join teams from New Zealand, France, Britain, Sweden and Japan hoping to challenge holder Oracle Team USA in Bermuda in 2017. Australian and Italian teams have withdrawn.
There have also been rumours of Canadian, Russian, Greek, German and Bermudan teams mounting a challenge but, so far, nothing has materialised.