It’s been 30 years since Australia became the first country to take away the America’s Cup, and 26 years since Perth, Australia, staged one of the all-time great AC regattas in its defense. (Who can forget the way Dennis Conner, the American who had lost the Cup, completed his crusade to regain it—to the cheers of a disappointed but deliriously hospitable OZ?) More recently, it’s been 13 years since the country last fielded its own challenge.
Now Australia is back, after the Hamilton Island Yacht Club’s bid to become Challenger of Record for the 35th match was accepted in September by the defender, Golden Gate Yacht Club, amid expectations—no immediate announcements or guarantees—of races in 2017 on San Francisco Bay (the year 2015 being too soon to develop the boats, and 2016 being an Olympic year).
Australia’s ocean racing legend Bob Oatley, known for his support of many of young Australian Olympians who now populate AC teams, and for a series of maxi ocean racers named Wild Oats, will head the challenge along with his son, Sandy. Together father and son run the elegant Hamilton Island Yacht Club—and almost everything else on this boutique island in Queensland’s Whitsunday archipelago—as a business, so we appear to be taking yet another step from the Cup’s traditional “yacht club” foundations.
All indications are that the Oatleys anticipate a highly nationalistic challenge. But don’t expect Oracle Team USA’s Aussie-born skipper Jimmy Spithill to head Down Under any time soon. With an American wife and kids, not to mention a winning program here in the United States, he’s likely feeling pretty American himself these days.
Longtime Cup follower Kimball Livingston
is based in San Francisco