Oracle Team USA’s quest for an America’s Cup three-peat in Bermuda next weekend will begin with Australian Jimmy Spithill at the helm.
Then there’s the Australian who claimed Olympic gold in London and backed it up four years later with a silver medal in Rio. Yet for the duration of the America’s Cup regatta in May and June, Lake Macquarie local Nathan Outteridge will be steering the hopes of the Swedish entry, Artemis Racing.
Meanwhile Team New Zealand has another Australian, Victorian skipper Glenn Ashby. A world champion sailor, Ashby might hail from Bendigo, but is tilting towards trans-Tasman sailing in search of glory.
With Australia failing to mount an America’s Cup challenger for the last three decades and an entrant for the last 17 years a generation of the nation’s finest sailors have long had no alternative other than to be flexible.
“There is no Australian challenger, however there are a lot of Australians in the teams. Ironically out of the six teams – there are three Australian skippers and even more personnel manning the boats on and off the water,” says the Sydney born Spithill, a world champion sailor for Australia and, for Team USA, a two-time America’s Cup conqueror and the youngest ever America’s Cup winning skipper.
The oldest sporting trophy in the world, the Auld Mug, is also perhaps the most tightly held. Since the first edition in 1851 only four nations can lay claim to having captured the silverware: the US, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand.
Australia famously shattered the stranglehold of the USA but since then support for another “boxing kangaroo” styled entrant has dwindled. Since the halcyon days there’s been a dip in public and corporate support for an Australian tilt. That has dented the hopes of homegrown talent.
“The America’s Cup hasn’t been in the spotlight for a long time because Australia hasn’t had a team. This is the pinnacle of sailing. It is the Formula 1 of sailing. We are in the fastest boats of our sport and we are on the cutting edge,” says Tom Slingsby, yet another Aussie and the Oracle Team USA tactician.
A proud Sydney sailing graduate, Slingsby has a yachting pedigree that is the envy of all six of the international teams competing in Bermuda. A Sydney to Hobart victor, a World and Olympic champion and a former America’s Cup winner – the 32-year old dreams of one day being able to race for an entry bearing the flag of his country of birth.
“I would love to compete for Australia in the America’s Cup. If anyone was curious about could we win the Americas…