If you have been on or around Sydney Harbour in the last month, you have probably noticed two AC45 catamarans flying around at speeds greater than 20 knots. One of course is Team Australia (not to be confused with Sean Langman’s trimaran, an Orma 60 of the same name), and the other belongs to Oracle Team USA. Now you’re probably wondering why Team USA came all the way to Sydney – I’ll get to that later.
Australia was the first nation to topple the USA in the America’s Cup, ending their 132 year winning streak – the longest in sporting history. Royal Perth Yacht Club won the Cup for Australia in 1983 with the 12-metre-class yacht, Australia II.
On September 25th of last year, shortly after Emirates Team New Zealand was defeated, Bob Oatley filed a challenge, making Hamilton Island Yacht Club (HIYC) the challenger of record. This means that in 2017, another Louis Vuitton Cup will be held, in which the winner of the series will challenge the defending club (the Golden Gate Yacht Club) in the America’s Cup. Oatley’s passion for sailing and his financial backing (a net worth reportedly close to $1 billion USD) form an ideal foundation for an America’s Cup campaign.
So, back to Team Australia. On the 6th of March, HIYC started its America’s Cup journey by unveiling an AC45 catamaran at the team’s Sydney base in Woolwich, to be used for training. Oracle Team USA will train alongside them as part of a program being run by Tom Slingsby (strategist for Team USA). Confused? I am too, but the real racing doesn’t begin until they move into the AC72.
Furthermore, Team Australia announced at the unveiling that Mathew Belcher is going to be skipper. Belcher has an impressive list of achievements. He became a world champion at the age of 18 and has now added four more world championship titles, as well as an Olympic Gold medal for Australia at the London games and claiming ISAF sailor of the year.
With Oatley’s financial capability and Belcher’s exceptional experience, being led by another experienced and capable CEO, Iain Murray, it is safe to say Australia is in good hands. With lots of hours on the water, Team Australia will be hard to beat.