With Franck Cammas mostly denying our report yesterday of his Challenge (though confirming he’s been working for over a year to make a French Challenge happen), we turn to the New York Times’s Christopher Clarey, whose morning piece names billionaire wine magnate and yachting-obsessed Bob Oatley and his Hammo Yacht Club as the new Challenger of Record for the 35th America’s Cup.
Oatley may not be alone either; you might remember a few months back when Ernesto Bertarelli and friends were racing in beautiful Hamilton Island, Oatley’s island paradise, on Oatley’s own boat. Perhaps it was more than just a race charter? Hell, the Cup went down there for a photo op with Oatley himself (see above). Coincidence?
If true, it’s almost too good a story: The most famous of all Challengers, Australia joining the Cup just as their nation is leading the yachting world in up-and-coming talent, funded by a sailing obsessed billionaire with deep ties to Ernesto Bertarelli? Could you write a better story? We couldn’t.
The Alinghi angle makes a great deal of sense as well; splitting the $100++ million costs between two billionaires makes it that much easier to pull the trigger for both, and with a likely 50% or so nationality rule coming into play (as Coutts himself has supported), Bertarelli could be part of the game in a place that’s actually on the sea and full of potential Cup sailors.
With guys like Glen Ashby likely free agents and flag-carrying Aussies like Slingsby and Spithill and Langford and Fowler possibly in a contract-free state, an Aussie challenge could instantly include some of this Cup’s top sailors while weakening the Defender at the same time. We know those boys would rather sail for their home nation if they don’t have to take too big a pay cut, and what an epic tale an Aussie/American final would make.
In other news, NZ digital hooligan and billionaire Kim Dotcom (who founded the slickest and sexiest filesharing and piracy host on the web and essentially bought his citizenship in Kiwilandia) has thrown his support behind a TNZ challenge. While Dotcom is a polarizing figure at best, he’s got a few spare millions lying around, especially now that he has beaten the crap out of the US effort to imprison him for piracy. Dotcom wants to screw America, and this could be a great way to do it. With the NZ government unlikely to throw much cash into another Dalton-led challenge, Dotcom’s inclusion could be both poetic and a NZ challenge’s only chance, despite, as the Ed announced earlier, the creepiness of the dude.
The silly season has begun, and if just a few of the stories we are hearing are true, it’s going to be an interesting one!