Oracle Racing searching for host club

While the America's Cup syndicate struggles to beat the 1 March entry deadline, Australia II looks set to race in the Solent this summer, writes Andy Rice

Monday January 29th 2001, Author: Andy Rice, Location: United Kingdom
Time is running out for the American syndicate Oracle Racing to file an official challenge for the America’s Cup by the 1 March deadline, after talks broke down with the St Francis Yacht Club. The challenge is backed by one of the world's richest men, software tycoon Larry Ellison, and includes Paul Cayard and Chris Dickson amongst the team of sailors.
Gina von Esmarch of Oracle Racing commented: "For the past six months, the St Francis Yacht Club and Oracle Racing have been engaged in negotiations evaluating scenarios on how to best join forces for America's Cup XXXI. Talks concluded when it became apparent that St Francis Yacht Club could not satisfy Oracle Racing's requirements."

St Francis Yacht Club has been involved in two previous America's Cup campaigns, most recently in 1999-2000 with AmericaOne, whose assets and staff have formed the core of Oracle Racing. AmericaOne succeeded in making it to the challenger finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Steve Taft, Commodore of St Francis Yacht Club, expressed disappointment that they were unable to reach an agreement. "Many members of Oracle Racing are members of St. Francis Yacht Club. It seemed like a perfect fit but we were not able to structure an agreement that would benefit both parties," he remarked.

Bill Erkelens, Oracle Racing's COO, said that talks were continuing with other clubs that had expressed interest in challenging with the syndicate.

While Oracle Racing continues with its bid to compete in Auckland in 2003, there is the prospect of seeing the most famous yacht in America’s Cup history, Australia II, competing in the Solent this summer. After nine months of negotiation with the Western Australian State Government and the West Australian Maritime Museum, an agreement has been signed that will enable the 12-metre to come out of retirement and compete in The America's Cup Jubilee Regatta to be held in Cowes in August of this year.

The famous yacht, which won the America's Cup in 1983 and ended the New York Yacht Club's 132 year grip on the event, has been on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney since the unsuccessful defence of the Cup in Fremantle in 1987. Earlier this year the yacht was shipped to Fremantle WA where it will be the centrepiece of a new $39 million maritime museum being built there. This museum will not be completed until 2002 which leaves an opportunity for Australia II to sail in Cowes.

Skipper John Bertrand heads up a list of many of the original crew that would like to sail on her in Cowes. The only remaining obstacle is money. They are only allowed to use the hull and must find US$350,000 to rig and complete a mast that was being built for her in 1986, and build a basic set of sails to campaign the yacht. The crew will be paying for their own airfares and accommodation. Let’s hope they make it happen in time for the Jubilee.

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