Wild Oats leads race to take up Oracle challenge

Announcement to be made on Monday by holders Oracle Team USA

The next lead challenger for the America’s Cup is expected to be announced by the holders, Oracle, and their sponsoring Golden Gate Yacht Club, in San Francisco tomorrow. The front runner is the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, an island resort off the east coast of Australia owned by prominent backer of big boat yacht racing, Bob Oatley. His 100-footer Wild Oats is a multiple winner of the Sydney to Hobart Race.

The Challenger of Record is meant to represent the interests of all the challengers against the Defender and at one time it was expected that one of the three to hold the post in the just-concluded America’s Cup 34, the Royal Swedish Yacht Club’s Artemis Challenge, would continue in the role it took from Italy’s Vincenzo Onorato when he pulled his Mascalzone Latino team out of the event.

When Artemis were eliminated from the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger elimination trials the role then fell to the winners, Emirates Team New Zealand.

ETNZ are still licking their wounds and considering their future after being scythed down in the one of the great comebacks as Oracle, thanks to some dramatic changes to the foiling characteristics of their 72-foot wing-powered catamaran, came back from 1-8 down to 9-8 winners.

Australia have a long and noble history in the America’s Cup, a trophy renamed after its first winner, the schooner America, won a race around the Isle of Wight in 1851.

It was Alan Bond’s Australia II, sporting a winged keel, that finally took the ewer from the 132-year grip of the New York Yacht Club. And it was an Australian skipper, Jimmy Spithill, who was at the helm of the radically improving Oracle, with Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie and another Australian, Tom Slingsby, adding tactical and strategic input alongside him.

Also to be announced is the date of the next cup, AC35, the venue for the regatta, and the specifications of the boat to be used.

Oracle owner Larry Ellison did little more than open an auction for the venue when he said he would like the event to stay in his home city, San Francisco. Everyone has said that the problem of costs has to be faced head on when it comes to specifying the boat but the essential feature of being able to lift the boat on to hydrofoils is what so excited the television and trackside audiences.

Team New Zealand have ruled out any legal challenge to Oracle’s use of an automated stabilisation system which is suspected to have vastly improved their performance in order to bring about their remarkable comeback last week.