Nearly three years ago, in late 2013, Bob and Sandy Oatley of Wild Oats XI fame became the official challengers of record for the 35th Americas Cup to be held in 2017.
Unfortunately the challenge never eventuated, and sadly Bob passed away in January of this year.
Now another contender may be on the horizon.
A trio of Queensland entrepreneurs Steve Ackerie, Rodney Longhurst and his brother, two times Bathurst 1000 winner Tony, have launched an ambitious bid to bring the Louis Vuitton Americas Cup World Series to the Gold Coast in 2020.
All three members bring considerable business and sporting acumen to the table. Ackerie is CEO of hair salon chain Stefan, and an offshore powerboat champion, while the Longhurst’s brought us Dreamworld.
Currently Rodney is owner and CEO of boat builders Riviera Australia, while Tony runs The Boat Works.
While it isn’t the Americas Cup itself, according to the consortium it is a step in the right direction of putting Australia back in the main game.
The Louis Vuitton Series is a set of lead up races that determines where teams stand going into the Americas Cup event itself. Raced using one design AC45s, identical in design, but smaller than the Americas Cup AC 72 catamarans, it gives each team a chance to get familiar with the type of racing they will have to master to take home the big one.
The first steps have already been taken. Tony Longhurst has invested in an Extreme 40, the type of catamaran we saw in the Extreme Racing Series held on Sydney Harbour in December last year, with which he aims to thrill potential sponsors and partners on the Gold Coast and during Hamilton Island race Week.
His aim is to eventually graduate to an AC 45 and put a team together that will one day challenge for the Americas Cup. The syndicate has already garnered interest from sponsors and the sailing community, interested in bringing this spectacular event to Australia.
The 2013 Americas Cup brought sail racing out of the closeted realm of exclusive yacht clubs and cocktails on the deck, to a full blown television and spectator spectacular.
It’s hard to forget Oracle Team USA coming from 1-8 down to take the series 9-8 over Emirates Team New Zealand in 72 foot Catamarans that could easily hit 40knots in only 20 knots of wind, truly spectacular viewing.
This appears to be no pipe dream for the trio. Having witnessed the spectacular crowds at the Sydney Extreme Sailing event, and how the Louis Vuitton Americas Cup World Series has put the small nation of Oman on the map, they are keen to give their home state and more specifically the Gold Coast a similar boost.
It would be fantastic for our sailors too. Australia did spectacularly well at the London Olympics bringing home three Gold and a Silver Medal, while former Americas Cup winner, James Spithill will skipper the defender, Team USA in Bermuda next year.
Surely if New Zealand with all their great sailors can put a team together, then Australia should be able to give it a shot. We shall watch the progress of the bid with interest.