Two syndicates race to beat deadline for millennium cup

Sailing: Stuart Alexander on the battle for British representation in the America's Cup
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The Independent Online
Two fledgling syndicates are battling to raise the $100,000 (pounds 60,000) needed to give Britain a place for the millennium America's Cup in New Zealand. They need to register by the deadline of 13 May.

The establishment bid, represented by the Royal Yacht Squadron's Maldwin Drummond and the Royal Thames' John Prentice, has got as far as holding a series of negotiations with interested parties, but has yet to announce any financial involvement.

But intriguingly, a dark-horse challenge has appeared in the form of a 31-year old advertising executive from Clapham, David Dent.

Dent, who runs his own media consultancy, has set up the grandly titled, but so far insubstantial, Endeavour 2000 with the specific aim of mounting a British challenge. He admits he has neither money nor high-powered backers, but still expects to be at the next meeting of challengers in New York in January. He hopes he can not only register by May but have at least some of the six sponsors he is seeking at pounds 5m apiece ready to state their commitment. He would like to see some millennium fund cash made available.

Prentice, meanwhile, says good progress was made at a recent two-hour meeting of just six people, which also covered the current malaise in big boat sailing. An action programme is being drawn up.

Should either group make it to the water, Britain would be up against formidable competition. At least four United States syndicates, including the NYYC, Bill Koch - though not this time with an all-woman syndicate - Dennis Conner, and San Francisco, where Paul Cayard is the favourite to be skipper, are expected. The Japanese have declared, Australia and Spain are expected to take part again and, though there is a question mark over a French challenge there are now strong signs that Daimler-Benz will support a first appearance by Germany.

Sir Peter Blake, who led the victorious New Zealand challenge last time, said he would be keen for a British challenge to materialise. "Anyone that wants to know, I would be keen to talk to personally. When we went to the US it was very hard, you didn't get a hand from anybody. We want to make things as easy for everyone as possible."

The defending New Zealanders have, as expected, decided not to create an internal competition for the defence job and will have just one syndicate. Auckland expects 12 to 15 challenging syndicates from what the New York Yacht Club describes as 35 serious enquiries.

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