Australian vintner challenges US for America's Cup
Oracle Team USA skipper James Spithill celebrates after winning the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco on September 25, 2013
"We are delighted to have Hamilton Island Yacht Club and the Oatleys leading Australia back into the America's Cup for the first time since 2000," said America's Cup liaison Tom Ehman.
The announcement comes just days after Team USA, owned by billionaire software mogul Larry Ellison, completed one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history to clinch the 162-year-old trophy with victory over Team New Zealand.
The defending champions, skippered by Australian James Spithill, crossed the finish in San Francisco 44 seconds ahead of the New Zealanders to claim the coveted prize 9-8, having fought back from 8-1 down in the series.
Billionaire Oatley and son Sandy submitted an official challenge immediately after the final race, on the 30th anniversary of Australia famously winning the America's Cup in 1983, said Ehman, who is vice commodore of holders Golden Gate Yacht Club.
Being the Challenger of Record means that Hamilton Island, on the Greet Barrier Reef, has the right to work with the Golden Gate Yacht Club and set the laws of the next Cup regatta, while representing all other challengers in dealings with Oracle Team USA.
The Australian entry, however, will have to triumph in a challenger series before they can contest for the America's Cup.
Oatley and a succession of his yachts named Wild Oats have dominated ocean racing in Australia for years, winning six of the past eight Sydney-Hobart races.
An Australian team led by Oatley, one of the pioneers of Australian wine exports who today heads a business that operates in areas ranging from cattle to luxury tourism, also won the last Admiral's Cup, widely regarded as the world's top prize in ocean racing.
"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," Bob Oatley said.
"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."
Australia last competed in the event in 2000, when veteran yachtsman Syd Fischer put together the Young Australia challenge that failed to get through to the final Cup series.
Prior to that, Australia had not entered a campaign since Kookaburra II lost to Stars and Stripes off Fremantle in 1987 in defence of their 1983 title, which was won by Perth businessman Alan Bond's Australia II, breaking the United States' 132-year stranglehold on the title.
Ehman said the specifics of the race, including the dates, type of boat, format and rules, were subject to negotiation between the two teams.
Sandy Oatley told Australia's Channel Seven he expects the details to be formalised early next year with a view to the next event being held in about three years’ time.
"So the challenger and defender get together and they work out the venue, the type of boat, what the cost is going to be, the nationality of the crews," Oatley explained.
"It’s a collaborative affair and then those (details) will be out by early next year and then other teams will challenge for the America’s Cup as well."
Sandy Oakley hinted he was keen to lure Spithill from Oracle Team USA, but the Australian skipper remained coy.
"I haven't made any decisions yet," Spithill told Fox Sports, though he added it was time Australia got their hands on the America's Cup again.
"When you look between all the teams here in the past 10 years of America's Cups, there are a lot of Australians involved -- sailors, athletes, designers, engineers, boat-builders.
"There's certainly no shortage of Australian talent for a team."
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