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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us