Ex-Wallaby Phil Waugh eyes the America's Cup

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2013
Phil Waugh
Fairfax NZ
CHANGING COURSE: Ex-Wallaby Phil Waugh

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Former Wallabies flanker Phil Waugh wants to contest the America's Cup with Australia's new syndicate a prime target.

Waugh, who is sailing his fourth Sydney to Hobart race on Boxing Day, said this year's dramatic Cup final between Oracle and Team New Zealand had stirred his interest.

"I just thought it was great, really exciting," Waugh told Australian media.

Waugh, who played 79 tests for the Wallabies up till 2009, looms as a strong candidate for a grinder's job, believing he could follow the lead of champion Olympic rower Rob Waddell who has been part of Team New Zealand for more than a decade. He felt he had the strength, fitness and competitiveness to get involved.

"I love competing at an intense level," Waugh said.

"If Australia was to be a part of it, it would be a dream to do it."

The Hamilton Island Yacht Club is the challenger of record for the next Cup, signalling Australia's return to the competition since 2003.

Aussie great Iain Murray is heading the syndicate that is backed by Bob Oates.

Murray is on the lookout for talent and is battling to get the top Aussies away from the established rival teams.

Murray yesterday raised the prospect of women sailors joining the Australian challenge, despite playing a limited role in Cup history.

"I am open to anything but they have to be able to do the job," Murray told the Courier Mail newspaper.

"We want to build a really strong team and we feel we have the time to do it. They just have to be moulded into one team and we have to mentor and support them for the battle ahead.

"There is a possibility for women. There are no gender provisions here.

"There will be eight or nine positions and everyone will have to earn their spots.

"There are some jobs that will be determined by strength and others like tactics etc which will not."

Waugh has a chance to impress the Australian syndicate when he takes his place among the professional crew on Perpetual Loyal for the Sydney to Hobart race.

The 100-foot super-maxi expected to test Wild Oats XI's bid for a seventh line-honours victory in the Australian blue water classic. Wild Oats is owned by the Oats family.

Forecasters yesterday delivered a dream prospect for the big boats, believing they could blast to Hobart without any southerlies to contend with.

In one of the most even fleets in years, Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards believes as many as seven boats could break his boat's record set last year of one day 18 hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds.

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Richards targeted Karl Kwok's new 80-foot Hong Kong speed machine Beau Geste, and the Volvo 70s Giacomo and Black Jack among dark horses for line honours.

Giacamo is the only Kiwi entry and has Chris Dickson on board.

- Sunday Star Times

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