Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club is America's Cup Challenger of Record
by Risa Merl
Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club, led by prolific yacht owner and Australian winemaker Bob Oatley, will be the next America's Cup Challenger of Record.
Hamilton Island Yacht Club set forth the challenge for the cup, which was accepted by the Golden Gate Yacht Club – current Defender and Trustee of the America's Cup after Team Oracle USA, owned by Larry Ellison, won the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco last Wednesday.
The Australian club has hosted the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week for the past three decades, welcoming more than 200 offshore yachts to competition. The Challenge was filed by Bob Oatley and his son, Sandy, on behalf of Hamilton Island Yacht Club. Oatley's super-maxi yacht Wild Oats XI has won the last six of eight Sydney to Hobart yacht races and is the reigning defender.
This is the first Australian Challenge since 2000, when Syd Fischer put together a team that failed to go through to the Finals, but included Jimmy Spithill as skipper – now the winning Skipper on Oracle Team USA in this year's Cup. The Cup was last raced in Australia in 1987 – a battle which saw Kookaburra III defeated by Dennis Conner's Stars and Stripes in Fremantle.
'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,' says Golden Gate Yacht Club Vice Commodore and America’s Cup liaison Tom Ehman. '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, Rhode Island, which ended New York Yacht Club’s 132-year reign as the Cup’s Defender.'
Bob Oatley commented, 'Given Australia’s previous success in the America’s Cup, the Admiral’s 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. The recently completed America’s Cup in San Francisco has revolutionized 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 organization.'
Of course, the dates, types of boat, format and rules for the next America's Cup are now subject to negotiation between the Challenger of Record and the Defender, with much else to consider including 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,' says Ehman. 'But first we must determine the venue, which, under the America’s Cup Deed of Gift, is decided by the Defender.'