Australian snub costly for America's Cup stars

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 08:13 11/12/2013
Larry Ellison
DANI CARDONA/ Reuters
CHAMPION: Larry Ellison cuddles his prized America's Cup.

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Australia's new America's Cup syndicate will build their crew from local young talent rather than get into a bidding war for stars from the last regatta.

Team Australia chief executive Iain Murray made that clear as he casts his eye around for sailing and design contenders.

Australians were plentiful in the syndicates that sailed in San Francisco and experience plays a huge part in the America's Cup, especially as yachting's prestige event gets set for a second edition in giant catamarans.

Two leading Australians have already decided to stay put. Mulithull guru Glenn Ashby is sticking with Team New Zealand and young strategist Tom Slingsby has signed on with champions Oracle.

Oracle are yet to nail down their Australian skipper Jimmy Spithill but he has made it pretty clear he is keen to defend the cup again under an American flag.

Murray seems to be content to look to a young crew to try to get Australia back in the game with his syndicate the challenger of record. He doesn't see a need to spend massive money on superstars.

"We are going to let a lot of that go past us," he told The Australian newspaper of getting involved in the rush to sign the big names in the wake of San Francisco.

"There's a lot of kids who haven't had that opportunity that we want to give that opportunity to. With the right coaching we think they can do just as good a job."

Murray believes Australia's successful Olympic programme can serve up plenty of talent for the high-speed boats that suit the new generation of sailors.

Top of his hit-list is Olympic 470 gold medallist Mat Belcher, who has already had a taste of big boat action, sailing on the Sydney-Hobart favourite Wild Oats which is owned by Team Australia backer Bob Oatley.

Other names being bandied about include 18-foot skiff specialist Seve Jarvin, former world moth champion Scott Babbage, and David Gilmour, son of former America's Cup skipper Peter Gilmour.

If Murray is to snare some established cup talent it might be more in the way of coaching  with Australian Darren Bundock, a multihull specialist who tutored Oracle sailors a possibility.

Murray hopes to lock in key sailing staff over the next month and get them operating in the AVC45s.

Meanwhile, San Francisco officials have revealed they are still US$5.5m in the red from hosting the last regatta.

As they review the 2013 event, the costs versus benefits argument is coming to a head, with the city's management needing to decide by December 22 whether to bid to host the next event.

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The loss is set against a backdrop of positivity that included more than 700,000 people being drawn to the yachting action on the city's impressive to the waterfront over roughly three months and generated at least US$364m in total economic impact.

It is well below the US$902m in economic benefit that was projected in March and a long way off the US$1.4b economic boost originally predicted in 2010.

Mayor Ed Lee appears keen to keep the cup in his city and believes it will help the continued waterfront development that is rejuvenating the foreshore.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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