From event to team, former AC regatta director Iain Murray will head Hamilton Island Yacht Club’s America’s Cup Challenge, an important move and not just for the team

The announcement of an America’s Cup team CEO is rarely a major news story but Iain Murray’s appointment is different. As Challenger of Record, Hamilton Island Yacht Club will play a pivotal role in shaping the 35th America’s Cup. Murray’s appointment is a big deal, not just for the team, but for the event and future challengers.

Murray had previously worked as the regatta director for the 34th AC and was rightly admired and credited for making the ambitious technology side of the bold new America’s Cup work. Implementing the wild new wingsailed cats and catering for the unexpected move to hydrofoils was just a part of his brief. Creating the new style courses and developing the management of the racing were all on his work list, to say nothing of the task of keeping the peace between competiting teams and organisation itself. All of which has put Murray in a unique position to steer the 35th America’s Cup while at the same time returning to his competitive roots.

Murray’s appointment is significant because:

1) It dispels earlier speculation that the Australian team had adopted a caretaker role for the Challenger of Record. Some questioned whether the Oatley led team would indeed deliver, or whether it would withdraw and hand over to another team later in the proceedings. An Australian team now seems assured.

2) Confirms how serious an Australian team could be – Murray’s reputation for seeing a deal through and delivering is impressive.

3) Provides confidence for other teams that the Challenger of Record will be able to negotiate effectively and not succumb to pressures from the Defender. You don’t have to go back too far to remeber how much of a mess a ‘tame’ Challenger of Record caused for the Cup. And when it comes to negotiation, no one knows the organisation like Murray, after all he helped build it.

4) He has a good, long term relationship with Russell Coutts.

5) Murray is held in high regard throughout the Cup world, particularly after the AC72 tragedy earlier this year. When the Cup came off the rails following the Artemis tragedy, Murray rescued a dire situation through careful and skilful negotiation and moved swiftly to produce a long list of safety recommendations that were adopted by all teams.

The bottom line is that he will be seen as a very safe pair of hands organisers and competitors alike, all of which should provide more confidence for those looking to move ahead with plans for the 35th AC.

So how are the plans for the 35th Cup shaping up? What boats will be raced, when and where?

In the Jan 14 issue of YW we carry an exclusive interview with Russell Coutts who sets out his vision for the 35th America’s Cup. Don’t miss it, this is straight from the horse’s mouth.

In the meantime, here’s how the official AC web site reported the news of Murray’s appointment:
Iain Murray, who has competed in the America’s Cup three times during his decorated sailing career, has been named the Chief Executive Officer of Team Australia, the Hamilton Island Yacht Club (HIYC) challenge for the 35th America’s Cup.

Bob Oatley, who filed the challenge on behalf of HIYC to become Challenger of Record shortly after ORACLE TEAM USA won the 34th America’s Cup in September, said Murray was the only man for the job.

“Iain knows what it takes to win an America’s Cup, having competed in three Cup’s over the years including Australia’s victorious 1983 win. We’ve had the great pleasure of being able to work closely with him over the last three decades, and have found him to be a consummate professional and also now a dear friend. I have a huge amount of respect for him, and we’re overjoyed to be able to officially announce his appointment as leader of our great challenge.”

“I have long been an avid supporter and ally of Bob Oatley,” Murray said. “When I received the invitation to lead Australia back into the America’s Cup for the first time since 2000 on behalf of their Hamilton Island Yacht Club, there was only ever going to be one answer.”

Murray held the role of Regatta Director for the 34th America’s Cup. Now, he is responsible for building a top Australian team and, as Challenger of Record, for working on the rules of the next event with the defender.

“This is good news for the Australian challenge,” said Russell Coutts, the CEO of ORACLE TEAM USA, the current champion and the defender of the America’s Cup. “In hiring Iain Murray, the Oatleys have a man of great ability and character to lead their team. We look forward to working with Iain and the Oatleys in developing the rules and format for the 35th America’s Cup.”

With over forty-five years of sailing experience, Murray has competed in three America’s Cups (1983, 1987, 1992). He is a champion 18ft Skiff skipper with a record six consecutive world titles under his belt from 1977 to 1982 and has represented Australia in the Olympic Games. He has also been a regular on the Oatley’s Wild Oats for the famed Sydney-Hobart race, racking up six line honors wins as well as the race record.