Sailing: America's Cup boost for British challenge

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The Independent Online

Riding the wave of success generated by Britain's Olympic sailors in Athens, a successful end is near for protracted negotiations to secure substantial financial backing for a second consecutive British crack at the America's Cup in 2007.

As teams gather in Valencia for next month's second European warm-up regatta, and a £200,000 airlift of their second boat allows double gold medallist Ben Ainslie to join Emirates Team New Zealand, the stage is being set for confirmation of a multi-million-pound sponsorship for GBR Challenge and the sale by owner Peter Harrison of a stake in the team he backed with £22m in Auckland in 2002-03.

Final details have still to be agreed, and a delay is necessary to allow the announcement in Doha, Qatar, tomorrow of the latest steps by the financially beleaguered Tracy Edwards to secure a round-the-world race in giant multihulls, scheduled to start next February.

The same sponsor, believed to be HSBC, is to finance that as part of a plan to become involved in the development of leisure facilities in the gas- and oil-rich sheikhdom. The deal centres round supporting, with up to $1m each, a minimum of three entries.

Edwards claims to have sold her own 110ft catamaran, the former Club Med, to Qatari interests as a means of settling her UK debts. The other two boats are thought to be Olivier de Kersauson's trimaran, Geronimo, and Tony Bullimore's vintage 100ft catamaran, which he bought from Edwards.

It is also crunch time for Neal and Lisa McDonald if Britain is to have an entry in next year's Volvo Ocean Race, in which Russia is making a late bid to take part.

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