Aussies Pull Out of America’s Cup 35
AND THE AUSSIES WERE THE CHALLENGER OF RECORD
By Kimball Livingston
Let’s start here.
The Hamilton Island Yacht Club/Oatley family issued the following release on Friday, July 18, 2014:
Hamilton Island Yacht Club today announced its withdrawal from the 35th America’s Cup.
The Hamilton Island Yacht Club became the Challenger of Record for the 35th America’s Cup upon the completion of the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco in 2013.
In commenting on the decision not to proceed with the challenge, Sandy Oatley said “When we entered the Cup we had the intention of trying to change the Cup in many ways. Our position as Challenger of Record gave us the opportunity through the drafting of the protocol to affect this change. Central to these changes, was the desire to make the participation in the Cup more affordable and more sustainable.
Bob Oatley said “The Challenge was initiated with a view to negotiating a format for the 35th America’s Cup that was affordable and put the emphasis back on sailing skills. Ultimately our estimate of the costs of competing were well beyond our initial expectation and our ability to make the formula of our investment and other commercial support add up. We are bitterly disappointed that this emerging team of fine young Australian sailors will not be able to compete at the next America’s Cup under our banner”.
And there is this.
I have every reason to believe that Oracle Racing was in a lather to find a Challenger of Record in that last, desperate week of September, 2013 as Spithill and the boys began to eat away at their points deficit, and winning began to look less and less impossible.
With a win would come the urgent need for a partner/challenger with a document waiting at the finish linethe customary-since-1988 hip pocket challengeto keep the Defender in the driver’s seat for planning the next match.
I have every reason to believe that Oracle thought they had a Canadian club ready to go, and then at nearly the last minute had to go “shopping” for an alternative.
And there, right there, was Iain Murray, CEO of America’s Cup Racing, longtime lion of Australia’s Cup efforts, a man with a direct line to his well-heeled friends the Oatleys, big time ocean racers and owners of the Whitsunday Island resort, Hamilton Island, and, not coincidentally, the resort feature known as the Hamilton Island Yacht Club. Ideas were tossed out, and a Challenger of Record was named.
Considering the length of time involved, I have every reason to believe that subsequent negotiations regarding the terms for the next matchthe Protocolwere difficult if not downright prickly.
It was Hamilton Island Yacht Club (Bob Oatley being the “Commodore”) or, more directly, Iain Murray, who called last weekend’s meeting in Los Angeles of six challengers and Oracle Racing. Reports first published in Britain’s The Independent have it that the challengers expressed a widespread dissatisfaction with the state of affairs and with Oracle Racing’s plans for the staging of events leading to a 2017 match. In particular, they said they want to race on San Francisco Bay.
Perhaps they believe what was so broadly touted the last time out, that there is no better place to play?
The rumors were hot through Friday, then, ahead of the Oatleys’ statement, came this announcement posted on AmericasCup.com:
The America’s Cup organizers have received notification from the principals of Hamilton Island Yacht Club of their intention to withdraw Team Australia from the 35th America’s Cup.
“We are very disappointed to be receiving this news,” said Russell Coutts, Director of the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA). “We were excited to have Australia as a challenger and we were also looking forward to the prospect of holding America’s Cup World Series events in Australia.
“But our focus going forward is with the teams that have already submitted challenges and the teams that have told us of their intent to do so before the entry deadline on August 8th.
In the meantime, ACEA is continuing its work to select a host venue for the America’s Cup in 2017. The selection process is progressing well with an aim to announce the final venue in October.
Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR), which revealed its America’s Cup team in a gala ceremony in London last month, had this comment:
“We remain supportive of the Defender’s continued drive towards a more commercial event format, along with a more sustainable future for this historic trophy. BAR will be bidding to host two America’s Cup World Series events in 2015/16 at our new home in Portsmouth; as a key part of the road to the 35th America’s Cup. While the withdrawal of the Challenger of Record is regrettable, it is also not unusual and we will continue our own preparations for the 35th America’s Cup and look forward to an exciting future.”
The relevant Protocol items are shown below. Whether the Deed of Gift trumps the Protocol is now a point of debateare we back to square one, and anyone could challengeor did Larry’s lawyers cover his bases? I bet I could hire a lawyer who would take either of those on.
14.2. Withdrawal of challenge: Unless GGYC has previously accepted at least
one other challenge for AC35 pursuant to this Protocol and such other
challenge has not been withdrawn (in which case, the provisions of Article
14.3 shall apply), the Challenger of Record must give to GGYC no less than
ninety (90) days prior written notice of an intention to withdraw its challenge
(or such shorter notice period as GGYC may accept). The Challenger of
Record’s challenge shall remain valid until expiry of the notice period.
Withdrawal of the challenge without giving proper notice of an intention to
withdraw the challenge in accordance with this Article shall be deemed to be a
notice of intention to withdraw the challenge in compliance with this Article.
14.3. Replacement Challenger of Record: If at any time the Challenger of
Record ceases to be a Challenger, the replacement Challenger of Record
shall be the Challenger whose Notice of Challenge was received by GGYC
first in time after the previous Challenger of Record and whose challenge is
14.4. List and order of Challengers: Following the close of the Entry Period,
ACEA shall publish a list of Challengers accepted by GGYC and the order
in which (and dates/times on which) their Notices of Challenge were
received by GGYC, and thereafter keep the list updated.
15.1. Restrictions: Subject always to Article 15.3 below, GGYC will accept
additional challenges for AC35 where the Notice of Challenge (in each
case) is received by GGYC pursuant to Article 16.1 from June 9, 2014
through August 8, 2014.
Social Media is alive as I write with people hoping that other challengers will withdraw, to force the Defender’s hand for a new Protocol.
One winner? Aussie Jimmy Spithill, who did not leave Oracle Racing to join an Australian challenge.
And Tiny Tim said, God bless us every one.