Bob and Sandy Oatley set out their early plans as Challenger representatives for the 35th America’s Cup
Bob Oatley, famous around the world for his string of highly successful Wild Oats boats is also famous in Australia for his long term support of the country’s Olympic sailing team. A team that was top dog in Weymouth last year. Tom Slingsby, Oracle’s wing trimmer and Nathan Outteridge, Artemis’ helmsman, were among those to take a gold medals home in 2012 before stepping aboard 72ft AC cats in 2013.
Impressed by the depth of Australian talent in the 34th America’s Cup and excited by the racing in San Francisco, Bob Oatley and his son Sandy are taking the next stage by representing the Hamilton Island Yacht Club (HIYC) as Challengers for the 35th Cup.
At a recent press conference in Sydney they outlined their plans and ideas for the next Cup cycle. As they spelt out in the conference, they have yet to discuss arrangements in detail with the Golden Gate Yacht Club, but there are several key indicators as to their views on the shape of things to come. Among the first issues discussed were cost and the type of boat.
“We want to make it more affordable for more countries to participate in,” said Sandy Oatley. “We haven’t spoken to any outside parties yet, but we think a box rule around the boat and possibly the wing. Then we can play with the foils and other bits of the boat. But we’d like 60 percent of the campaign to be about the sailing.
“We’d like to make it more on the sailing side and less on the research side. It still needs an element of research and technology as that’s what made it so exciting in the 34th America’s Cup.”
But would they be in favour of multihulls?
“Yes, we think so, they’re pretty exciting,” he said. “It’s a bit of a problem getting yachts of that size with keels close to the shore.
“We’re monohulls sailors, but just watching the cats and the spectacle of it, got the viewing public’s attention. The technology we saw in the last couple of weeks was just fascinating and fantastic.”
Nationality rules have been a hot topic of conversation in recent weeks, particularly given that Oracle only had one American sailor on board the boat. What would the Oatley’s be batting for?
“We’d like to try and get a reasonable percentage of the competitors from the country of the clubs,” he continued.
Given Spithill’s success would he be a key to the challenge?
“Not necessarily,” he said before going on to emphasise Australia’s strong position. “I think it would be easier to have a full Australian crew than for other countries, we’re very lucky.”
And what of the interim years, would a world series be a possibility?
“Part of the talk is a world series like they did with the 34th Cup,” he said. “Our idea would be to get a world series going with an event in every country that there is a challenger.”
Meanwhile, among the other key questions there are two that are frequently asked at present, when and where might the 35th America’s Cup be held?
At present the most popular best guess seems to be 2017 given that the Olympics are in 2016.
According to a news report by Christopher Clarey in the New York Times, Golden Gate Yacht Club spokesman Tom Ehman indicated that the club hoped to have the new set of rules ready by 2014. He also suggested that a return to San Francisco was a strong possibility.
So as the dust settles from a spectacular Cup and the game of musical chairs for teams and team players begins, the big Cup shuffle starts.
As Ben Ainslie put it last week, “This period is a bit like the transfer window in football.”
But I guess without the tattoos, bizarre haircuts and eye watering wage deals.