Following the entry announcement of the long-rumoured French America's Cup entry, the team has now named their headline sponsor Accor Group and its brands Orient Express and ALL-ACCOR Live Limitless

A long-rumoured French team was finally announced as an entry to the next America’s Cup in 2024 in early January 2023. Details at the time were thin on the ground in particular there was no headline sponsor attached to the team, looking to compete in the 37th America’s Cup. But at the start of February, the Accor hotel group has officially committed to the French chalenge for the 37th America’s Cup naming its Orient Express brand as title partner.

The French challenge will now be named Orient Express Team, having previously taken the name K-Challenge when their entry was initially announced. The Orient Express Team will be sailing under the flag of the Société nautique de Saint-Tropez and the for the 37th America’s Cup in Barcelona in 2024 will be led by Stephane Kandler and Bruno Dubois.

“We are very happy and proud to carry the colours of such an iconic French brand as Orient Express, part of the Accor Group, which has a worldwide reputation and exports French excellence. Accor’s support through two of its brands is a global and ambitious commitment that will allow our sport-tech platform K-Challenge, co-managed with Bruno [Dubois], to engage in multiple sporting and technology projects. These projects will highlight French know-how, talent, innovation, and contribute to a transition to ecological transportation,” Kandler said at the announcement of their headline sponsor.

The team also includes talented French specialists such as naval architect Benjamin Muyl, skipper Quentin Delapierre, head of performance Franck Cammas, and technical director Antoine Carraz.

The French challenge will pick up the option of a latest generation technology package provided by the Defender Emirates Team New Zealand, which should allow Orient Express Team to catch up on some of the time lost while other entrants are well down their design process.

Long rumoured French America’s Cup entry

The strong rumours of a French team trying to get an entry up and running had been floating around AC circles for some time but it was unclear whether they team would actually be challenging until their official announcement at the start of 2023. There had, however, been hints at another entry.

Back in July 2022, despite their being five official entries in the 37th America’s Cup of Emirates Team New Zealand (Defender), INEOS Britannia (Challenger of Record), Alinghi Red Bull Racing, American Magic, and Luna Rossa, a press release detailing plans for the Youth and Women’s America’s Cup events stated that:

‘Racing will be in a fleet of six one design AC40s supplied by the America’s Cup teams.’ It also stated within the details about the number of Youth and Women’s entrants in pools ‘a’ and ‘b’ that: ‘if more Cup teams are confirmed not only will Cup participants [pool a] increase but so will pool b participants’

This was a clear sign that another team was at the very least considered likely to be announced and the expectation is that this will be the fifth and final challenger for the 37th America’s Cup, bringing the total number of entries up to six.

Stephane Kandler and Bruno Dubois, K-Challenge Racing

CEO of AC37 Event Limited Grant Dalton said, “It is great to have the French now back in the America’s Cup as the 5th Challenger, and one that will no doubt bring a lot of typical character and flair to what is lining up to be a stunning event in Barcelona.

France is such a prominent sailing nation but despite this, it is not a small undertaking to get an America’s Cup team up and running so I congratulate Stephane, Bruno and the Société nautique de Saint-Tropez who have been working away tirelessly to get to this point.”

K-Challenge last challenged for the America’s Cup for the 32nd edition in Valencia in 2007.

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