Lift-off for British America's Cup challenge

Ian Walker and David Barnes head up Peter Harrison's assault on the Auld Mug, Andy Rice reports

Wednesday January 31st 2001, Author: Andy Rice, Location: United Kingdom
So it is official. GBR Challenge is to be the name of the first British campaign for the America’s Cup in 16 years. Peter Harrison, who last year completed the sale of his company Chernikeeff Networks Systems Ltd for a total of £300 million, is to plough £6.4 million into the launch of the new Challenge.
Harrison has made some wise appointments to head up his assault on the Auld Mug, beginning with David Barnes as general manager. Barnes, a Kiwi who won three 470 world titles in the early 80s but never qualified for the Olympics, has been involved with five previous America’s Cup campaigns. And Britain’s double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker is sailing manager.

In fact Walker has been busy for some weeks now, negotiating contracts with key British sailors from match racing, offshore and Olympic backgrounds. Walker has already signed up the following sailors: Andy Beadsworth, Ian Budgen, Mark Covell, Andy Green, Chris Mason, Guy Reid, Julian Salter, Mark Sheffield, James Stagg, Adrian Stead, Richard Sydenham, Jonathan Taylor, Jim Turner, Simon Fry and Neal McDonald.

Fry and McDonald were already scheduled to compete in Volvo Ocean Race campaigns, but no doubt the prospect of being able to race for Britain in the America’s Cup was too tempting to pass up. Madforsailing columnist Iain Percy is considering an offer to become a part-time team member, to enable him to concentrate on his future Olympic campaign in the Star class.

Walker commented: "We now have a group of sailors with proven attitude, ability and commitment, in addition to an established pedigree. The emphasis is on teamwork. We have a squad of 16 that will grow to 26 as sailors compete for positions on the boat. Our training period in the UK will provide the perfect opportunity to trial any potential new team members."

Challenge GBR has purchased three IACC yachts from the former Nippon Challenge - two 2000 generation boats and one 1995 version - along with six 40ft containers of associated equipment. Harrison has also signed up the two senior design engineers, Taro Takahashi and Akihiro Kanai who were closely involved with the Nippon Challenge campaigns in 1992, 1995 and 2000.

Joining them to form the Technical Design Group will be Jo Richards, a bronze silver medallist in the 1984 Olympics and Derek Clark who was involved in formulating the IACC rule, and was a key member of Peter de Savary’s Victory challenge in the early 80s.

The GBR Challenge will undertake a two-boat training programme in the Solent, and be based at the FBM Yard on the Isle of Wight where a new IACC yacht will be constructed. When the campaign moves to Auckland, it will occupy the Base Eight compound in the Viaduct Basin.

Harrison hoped that other investors and sponsors would come on board: "I have set up a syndicate that will be on the start line for the Louis Vuitton Challenger series for the 31st America's Cup. I estimate that the total campaign costs will be in excess of £17 million (approx $25 million) for a one boat campaign. I hope that GBR Challenge will attract interest from other investors and organisations wishing to support the project and benefit from it. There is a wide range of opportunities for sponsorship from companies wishing to project a global marketing image in this highly prestigious event."

madforsailing will update you with more details and comment from Challenge GBR later today.

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