The story originated from a piece run on 24 July in the Daily Mail column of gossip monger Nigel Dempster who revealed that Peter de Savary was on the verge of announcing a campaign using Bear of Britain helmsman the young curly thatched Mark Campbell-James as his skipper. Campbell-James recently married Kit Hobday's daughter Georgina, who is Peter de Savary's god daughter, hence the relevance to Mail readers.
The story was picked up by newshounds at the Sunday Times last weekend but revealed little else other than that de Savary was in negotiation with several sponsors and "has been approached by a Formula One racing team interested in helping to design a yacht to challenge for the cup." Rumour exchange suggests that this might be McLaren.
At the press gathering Hobday said very little other than adding that he had been in contact with Buckingham Palace to see if they would grant him the right to use the name 'Britannia' for their AC campaign. He also placed some limitations on their proposed challenge. It would only go ahead if the America's Cup was won this time by a syndicate who planned to stage the next Cup in Europe or the eastern seaboard of the US.
The feeling of more cynical observers in Cowes is that the 'Britannia Challenge' or whatever it is likely to be called, is merely a plan cooked up by Hobday to scupper or at least put a thorn in the side of Peter Harrison's GBR Challenge. Despite Hobday waxing lyrical about the former Chernikeef boss and British yacht racing's most generous patron at the press meeting, it is known that there is no love lost between the two gentlemen.
The prospect of another British challenger in 2006 will certainly muddy the waters and do little to assist GBR Challenge in their next attempt. Or will it? The road to winning the America's Cup is littered with controversy more often off the water than on it and the tussle between two titans such as Peter Harrison and de Savary could be exactly what is needed to bring the event more into the public eye, while having a 'rival' to race against for 2006 could provide an additional impetus for Ian Walker and his crew.
We will await the invite to de Savary's lavish launch party next spring before we decide whether this challenge is for real or not.