Sailing: Britain to miss Cup again: Matthews' challenge sinks as Winston steams ahead

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN will not be entering a challenge for the next America's Cup - the third time running the country has not been represented at the leading event in the sport.

The British Challenge, headed by the east coast boatbuilder, Richard Matthews, has failed to deposit a bond of dollars 250,000 ( pounds 160,000) with the organisers. The deadline, which had already been extended from 1 January, expires on Saturday, but the Challenge announced yesterday that efforts to come up with the money have come to nothing.

The group, who had deposited dollars 75,000 as a preliminary bond last year, would have needed to raise some pounds 15m to mount a serious campaign for the cup, which is due to be staged in San Diego in May next year.

The challenge, which also involved Harold Cudmore and Eddie Warden Owen, both veterans of previous campaigns, had been negotiating with Kingfisher, the retail group whose interests include Comet, B & Q and Woolworths, but could not cement an agreement. 'It is hoped that the links that have been formed may benefit a future attempt to regain the America's Cup for Britain,' Matthews said yesterday. The last time Britain mounted a challenge was in Fremantle in 1986-7, when Cudmore and Warden Owen spearheaded the White Crusader team for Graham Walker. Prior to that Peter de Savary had fronted several attempts, most notably with Victory, which reached the final of the challenger series in 1983 when it lost to the eventual winner, Alan Bond's Australia II.

The news reflects the difficulties top-flight sailing has in attracting enough finance in this country. Quite apart from the failure of this challenge, there is only one British entry in the current Whitbread Round the World Race - the Dolphin & Youth project - and that is designed around the disabled and young people who make up the crew, rather than the sport's elite.

Britain is not alone in this. Italy, who mounted a memorable challenge to reach the final last time, will not be represented either. The remaining challengers are due to meet in San Diego, and are expected to be seven or eight in number: two each from France and Australia, one apiece from Japan and Spain, plus one or two New Zealand syndicates.