Royal Dorset on course for America's Cup

Sailing: Stuart Alexander assesses Britain's chances of staging a credible challenge

Sir Peter Blake has, according to some of his Kiwi compatriots, more power and influence than the Prime Minister in his native New Zealand, having won the America's Cup last year. So his belief that Britain's challenge for sailing's greatest prize is a credible one - "you can win it" - is difficult to ignore.

"It would be a bit naive to think you could rip it off first time," he says, "but it's a huge benefit to have Britain there."

Such an advantage that Sir Peter, an Anglophile who lives with his family in Emsworth, personally carried the entry form, with its $100,000 (pounds 66,000) entry fee cheque, from Weymouth's Royal Dorset Yacht Club to Auckland last week to announce the 11 challenges for the 30th defence in 2000.

He knows only too well the list of priorities being drawn up not so much by the Royal Dorset as by the backers whose identities they have resolutely refused to disclose that will convert their challenge into a winning campaign. These include assembling the right design team, finding the builder of the hull, mast and keel, refining the sails and recruiting the skipper, tactician and crew - and relentlessly keeping the development programme going to the last race.

The most important of any hurdles which the first British challenge since 1986 has to cross is raising enough money to see the campaign through from start to finish. The commodore, Bill Simmonds, his senior colleagues and, perhaps most importantly, the lawyers who advise them must first have been persuaded that, in going public, they would not be embarrassed. "We would not have entered unless we thought it would go the full distance," Simmonds said.

It is a long road and Britain start well behind other countries which now have the experience of two cups behind them in developing a type of boat that has never been built in Britain. The tools, however, are all in place.

In the Wolfson Unit at Southampton, tank and wind tunnel testing facilities are already the first choice of other leading designers. There is also time to recruit the necessary foreign talent - both design and sailing - before the May 1997 deadline to meet the three-year residency requirement. There is abundant home-grown talent to draw from, too.

Add to these elements stacks of carbon fibre technology, aerospace design and computer power, and it should not be difficult to put a winning crew together. "Keep the team as small as possible, as experienced as possible, and make sure they are all compatible, that is so important," is Sir Peter's advice. "They need, above everything, a will to win and the determination to enjoy it. If you have people who want to become millionaires out of it you won't win."

One of the most important factors in the Royal Dorset's preparations is one over which they have least control: the management structure of the syndicate and its challenge. British sailing has been known more for its attritional, competitive and confrontational approach than tight-knit cohesion. There are already signs of cliques.

The final consideration - would Weymouth be a good place to stage an America's Cup if Britain won it and had to defend - is the easiest to answer. With the deep-water harbour at Portland now vacated by the Navy there is a first-class facility and the bay would provide spectacular racing. And does this hush-hush challenge have the proper backing? "It's got real legs," Sir Peter said.

n Lawrie Smith, the man most likely to skipper the Royal Dorset challenge, is set to announce which Whitbread syndicate he will join for next year. The Swedish EF Challenge has announced they are close to a deal, but Smith has continued talking to the Tag Heuer group in Switzerland over what could be a two-boat campaign.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam