Grant Dalton welcomes Australia's Cup return

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:01 02/10/2013
Cup
TIME FOR ACTION: Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton.
Bob Oatley
CARLO BORLENGHI/ Reuters
CHALLENGER: Bob Oatley's Hamilton Island Yacht Club is the challenger of record for the America's Cup.

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Team New Zealand have welcomed Australia's surprise return to the America's Cup scene.

Australia, the first country to win the Cup off America when they defeated the New York Yacht club in 1983, haven't been involved since the 2000 regatta in Auckland when they fielded a Young Australia team backed by Syd Fisher aimed at promoting the next generation of sailors, skippered by Jimmy Spithill.

Spithill has gone on to glory with Oracle and now Australia have been handed the powerful position as Challenger of Record through a successful application by the Hamilton Island Yacht Club.

They will help Oracle write the rules for the next regatta, timed for around three years.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton, still in San Francisco overseeing the packing up of his syndicate's base, believes Australia's return is "a good thing".

"It was the Aussies winning the Cup and it being in Australia that got New Zealand into it in the first place, so it can only be a good thing," Dalton said.

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker echoed those thoughts.

"It is 30 years since the Royal Perth Yacht Club won the Cup from the United States at Newport. Australia defended unsuccessfully in 1987 and was a challenger in 2000," Barker said.

He said of greater concern to Emirates Team New Zealand was the venue, timing and class of yacht to be raced which have still to be announced. 

"The dates, type of boat, format and rules will be negotiated by the HIYC as challenger of record and the GGYC as defender. The defender alone decides the venue.

"Both challenger and defender have said they want multiple challengers and to cut campaign costs for teams. We would welcome that," Barker said.

The Aussie challenge will make Team New Zealand's assignment more difficult if the Kiwis stay in the game.

Backed by billionaire Australian coffee-trader and winemaker and sailing devotee Bob Oatley, the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, are genuine with their intentions of resurrecting the America's Cup across the Tasman. They believe they have the sailing talent to mount a serious challenge.

Oatley, a Sydney to Hobart and Admiral's Cup winner who owns Hamilton Island and is ranked as Australia's 25th richest person with just under A$1 billion, has been frustrated at watching a generation of Australian Olympic sailors forced elsewhere.

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The development continues a cosy arrangement for Oracle.

The defender always picks a challenger it believes it can work with to share its vision and they certainly face some huge decisions about how they develop this year's hi-tech regatta for the next edition with massive pressure to cut expenses and attract more challengers.

Many expected Artemis Racing, this year's challenger of record, to have that role again.

But Hamilton Island emerged from left field.

They had a link to this year's event. Iain Murray, who was the America's Cup regatta director, recently stood down as commodore of the Hamilton Island club. He crews regularly for Oatley.

Murray spoke longingly - and fairly regularly - in San Francisco, about his disappointment in Australia's continued absence.

Meanwhile, in the background Hamilton Island was making some major manoeuvres, having their challenge accepted by Oracle boss Larry Ellison the moment Team New Zealand were beaten in the 19th and deciding race last week.

- Fairfax Media

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