Despite having never sailed in a single America’s Cup event, and despite the entry period not even opening for another month, his honourable worshipness Sir Keith Mills noisily announced last week that his Team Origin would continue to never sail in an America’s Cup event, due to the Brits having "no chance of winning" according to Mills. Now call us crazy, but we’re pretty sure that a complete rookie of a team has never had a chance of winning the Cup – at least not without buying up the entire Defender crew…Hell, even the absolute best Challenger rarely has a real chance of winning the big prize; remember that in AC32, often cited as "the most competitive Cup ever," the clear cream of the Challenger crop got trounced 5-2 by Alinghi. That’s not much of a chance at all.
Is this Sir Keef’s socially retarded attempt to gain back some face after spending tens of millions of pounds only to fail at every type of racing that his team entered over the past three years? Or did the lord realize that his rock star afterguard would never be forgiven by their countrymen if GBR didn’t dominate the 2012 Olympics because of AC commitments with a team that hasn’t shown the ability to win anything? Remember that Sir Keef was one of the chief architects of the 2012 UK Olympic bid…and maybe there’s your answer, though Ainslie was said to be ‘stunned’ at the announcement.
Perhaps anxious to get some of the publicity that Team Origin whipped up with their non-entry announcement, another fringe player, United Internet Team Germany, told the German Yacht.de site that they were also out, with lead sponsor 1&1 not excited about the American market and a team already prepared for a monohull Cup.
While Dean Barker trains on an A-Cat in Aotearoa, ETNZ is quietly filling their team roster with designers and technical advisers, most recently grabbing the brilliant Guillaume Verdier and former VPLP designer Benjamin Muyl, and making an ETNZ entry to AC34 pretty much a foregone conclusion. Verdier has plenty of multi experience (his Open 50 tri will be racing the Route Du Rhum in a few weeks) and Muyl worked on the BMW trimaran and recently managed the last-minute French C-Class effort at the Newport Little AC. Count Dalton in.
The Russians are also in, and they seem particularly enthused at the prospect, especially if they can get some kind of AC event going in mother Russia. As Magnus writes, "It’s unreal how the Brits can’t get themselves together but the Russians march on but hey, that’s the new World order for you and I applaud the Rusky’s for entering into a competition that realistically they have little chance of winning. However, these guys enter with a whole different purpose and it’s going to be wonderful to welcome them to the top table at the AC and who knows, in 15 years time, we could all be booking flights to St Petersburg for AC 37. Stranger things have happened and it would be awesome…"
And of course Mascalzone Latino will be there, but more interesting are recent rumors that one of the other Italian teams are rushing to make sure they’re not left out of the mix. It’s said to be a low-budget effort, pointing more to some of the Azurra folks than the likes of Prada, but the Italians are nothing if not resourceful, they’re full-on speed addicts, and they know that a successful AC34 means a huge advantage in AC35 for teams that get the experience. And we did see Chicco Bruni helming an Extreme 40 just a couple of weeks ago.
Then there are the bubble teams: Torborn Tornqvist certainly has the cash to compete as well as a top notch team (Terry Hutchinson has also been seen playing with A-Cats), but the Swedish oil trader is a notably private person and it remains to be seen if he’s ready for Artemis to join the chaos and politics that the AC attracts. The whispers from inside the team are that they’re in, but no one will say anything on the record.
The startup Aleph Team France has the opposite problem: All the will in the world to field a credible challenge in the discipline that the Froggies are most notable for, but very little cash. Then again, they’re fully supported by the national governing body – FFV – which has shown an ability to attract serious sponsors when they’re motivated, and we expect the Bertrand Pace-led team to file an entry shortly after BMW opens the door. Whether they make it to the starting line of any of the AC run up events is anyone’s guess.
Some of the most interesting speculation comes from Arabia, most notably about the Oman Sail folks. They’ve undoubtedly been burning through some serious cash with multiple campaigns sponsored by the Omani government. They’ve reportedly been very happy with both their internal campaign to bring Omanis to the sport, and their great success on the race course, designed to bring more tourism to the jewel-like Sultanate with its pristine cruising grounds, has certainly helped. And Sultan Qaboos probably farts million-euro notes, so the money’s there if he can be convinced of the payoff. Both he and the Emiratis could scare up the estimated 50-100 million being bandied about as realistic budgets faster than you can say "Shell Oil." It would be a big jump for either Oman or the UAE from their existing expenditures on yacht racing, but marketers would probably say that they’d get more exposure for their national tourism campaigns with an AC effort than a hundred Extreme 40 or Tour De France campaigns.
One thing we know: The Anarchists will keep digging, and you can check out the AC Challengers thread to keep posted on everything coming down the pike.