Group eyes all American effort for 2021 America’s Cup
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A group of professional sailors, industry leaders and financial backers is working to put together an all American challenge for the 2021 America’s Cup in New Zealand.
The unnamed group would become the second American challenger for the 2021 America’s Cup in New Zealand. The New York Yacht Club, which once held the Auld Mug for 132 years, announced in October that it would challenge for the first time since 2002-03. Its crew has several sailors from New Zealand.
The all American effort gained traction last weekend when some of its principals helped crew US One Sailing Team, skippered by Taylor Canfield, to victory over the New York Yacht Club’s Team American Magic in the prestigious Congressional Cup in Long Beach.
US One tactician Mike Buckley said he started the initiative for a team of American sailors, engineers and innovators a year ago.
“Our initiative is not about individuals, it’s about creating a winning culture in American sailing,” Buckley said in a phone interview Friday. “We believe that it’s kind of been a long time coming since there’s been a team of Americans that has challenged for the America’s Cup. My main goal is to change that. It wasn’t to change it for myself. It was to change it for American sailing.”
Canfield, 29, who won his fourth Congressional Cup, declined comment on his America’s Cup plans. Buckley said Canfield wants to helm an America’s Cup yacht “and we hope he’s with us.” Canfield grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands and currently lives in Miami.
While the New York Yacht Club’s team is American-backed and has an American skipper, Terry Hutchinson, it’s not 100 percent American. Its helmsman is New Zealander Dean Barker and there are other Kiwis on the crew. That’s been the trend during the last several America’s Cup, when nationality rules were blurred and then tossed aside. A partial nationality rule has been restored for 2021, but Buckley wants to take it further.
Buckley, who is a New York Yacht Club member, said his group respects the NYYC team and has friends among that crew.
“We believe we’re selling a different product,” said Buckley, who lives in New York. “Our focus is on us. It’s not us-versus-them. Our focus is on a group of Americans trying to win the America’s Cup.”
To do so will take a lot of money.
Buckley declined to divulge his team’s budget but said it has “a significant amount committed.” He said the group needs one or two more partners.
“We certainly have enough to get started,” said Buckley, 35, who was an All-American sailor at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.
He believes a team can “give a fantastic effort” with a budget of $80 million to $100 million.
On Thursday, British sailing star Sir Ben Ainslie announced his team has been rebranded INEOS Team GB after a commitment of $153 million from petrochemical firm INEOS. Part of that sum was buying out previous sponsors.
“To me, that says it’s out there. If we do our job we should be able to get it,” Buckley said.
He added that his group is modeling its effort after Ainslie’s syndicate and America’s Cup champion Emirates Team New Zealand, whose sailing crew was all-Kiwi except for Australian Glenn Ashby.
“What Ben created is tremendous,” Buckley said. “The following that he has, the success he’s had over the years, I just think he was able to get a whole country behind him without actually winning. I think that speaks volumes in what he did in building a national team. And obviously Team New Zealand has had a pedigree for ages. Their approach is very similar.”
There haven’t been multiple American challengers since the 2002-03 America’s Cup. While Oracle Team USA won the America’s Cup in 2010 and 2013, and unsuccessfully defended last year, there were few Americans on the boats.
Buckley believes the all American concept will work.
“When you look back at the history of it and see Dennis Conner on the cover of Time magazine and a parade in downtown Manhattan, that’s what we want to get back to,” he said. “It’s not about one person. It’s about getting back to the America’s Cup roots and traditions in the modern day. ... We believe that the time is now. For us it’s not about the next generation, it’s about today and what we can do to advance American sailing and also to advance American technology.”
US One will compete in the Argo Gold Cup in Bermuda May 8-12.
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson