Australian yacht club first to challenge champs 

click to enlarge Oracle Team USA
  • AP Photo/Ben Margot
  • Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, center, is sprayed with sparkling wine after Oracle Team USA won the 19th race against Emirates Team New Zealand to win the America's Cup sailing event, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, in San Francisco.
Australian wine magnate Bob Oatley’s Hamilton Island Yacht Club has been confirmed as the Challenger of Record for the 35th America’s Cup, organizers said on Monday.

Oatley and his son Sandy issued the challenge to the Golden Gate Yacht Club minutes after Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in a winner-takes-all race on San Francisco Bay last week.

“We’re very proud. We’ve been watching the 34th America’s Cup and watching the catamarans racing around San Francisco Bay and seeing some of our fellow Australian sailors participating and seeing what a shame it is that Australia doesn’t have a team to compete in this arena,” Sandy Oatley told Reuters by phone. “It’s always been on every sailor’s wish-list to compete in the America’s Cup.”

The GGYC confirmed Hamilton Island Yacht Club’s challenge late on Monday, two days after Reuters reported that an employee of the Oatleys had delivered the challenge seconds after Oracle crossed the line to seal victory on Wednesday.

As the Challenger of Record, the club will help shape the rules for the 35th America’s Cup along with the defender. Additional challengers are expected to emerge as the next competition takes shape in the coming years.

“We are delighted to have Hamilton Island Yacht Club and the Oatleys leading Australia back into the America’s Cup for the first time since 2000,” GGYC vice commodore and America’s Cup liaison Tom Ehman said in a statement.

Ehman said both parties would work together to establish the protocols for the next regatta, while the GGYC would choose the next venue with the details finalized by early 2014.

“Both clubs are keen to have multiple challengers, as has been the norm since 1970, and to cut campaign costs for all teams,” Ehman added.

The 34th America’s Cup had only three challengers, with the costs of the campaign, which was raced in high-tech, super-fast AC72 catamarans, put in excess of $100 million and cited as the main reason why so few teams went to San Francisco.

Forbes ranked Oatley as Australia’s 25th richest person with just under $1 billion. Ellison is the world’s fifth richest man with $43 billion.

The 35th America’s Cup will be the first time that Australia has had an entry since Oracle captain James Spithill skippered “Young Australia” in the 30th edition in Auckland in 2000, despite the country’s strong sailing tradition.

Yachting Australia (YA) hailed the challenge, coming after the 30th anniversary of Australia II’s win with an innovative winged keel, one of the nation’s proudest sporting moments.

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