by Gerald New
British interest in the America’s Cup trials taking place off Valencia is limited to 'what if' scenarios.
AC & LV Trophies in Valencia, Spain
British sailing journalists have been reduced to listing the numbers of 'Brits' involved in the AC regatta races over the last three years, everyone from top players, such as helms Ainslie and Percy, to umpires and gofers. And morphing this into a golden dream team that could do what no other British team has managed, compete successfully in the America’s Cup.
The spectre of the new 'Origin Team' stalks the dockside, cheque book in hand; ready to sign on the dotted line the cream of British yacht racing as soon as they are released from their golden handcuffs in July.
For over 100 years a handful of British millionaires threw money in a fruitless attempt to beat the seemingly limitless supply of American millionaires.
In the end it took the Australian Alan Bond, to wrest the trophy out of the New York YC, after the rules had been changed to allow the challengers similar competitive rights to the defending team.
This so traumatised the US yachting establishment that when Conner won it back he was accorded a Ticker Tape welcome.
Before 1970 the defender ran a competitive series of trials, while the challenger was a sole yacht, without any comparative trial competition.
Since the change to allow multi challenger entries a British boat has never made it through the challenger rounds. The potential entry for this present series foundered after the 2003 event, when backers could not be found to pick-up the challenge started by Peter Harrison, and the boats were mothballed.
The recently announced British Origin Team, set up by Sir Keith Mills, is pledged to take part in the next two AC challenges. This was thought to mean that they would need to be facing a final in 2009, but comments last weekend by some competitors put this in doubt.
An extra year’s delay could work to the Brits advantage, giving them more time to get sponsors on board and a new boat up and running, it would also position the final between the Chinese and British Olympics.
Sir Keith is in town and the Origin Team is expected to have a permanent presence in Valencia in May. The sailing events over the next two months will be used to showcase the America's Cup to potential sponsors and private investors.
Sponsors are being sought for at least half the 30 million-pound annual budget. The remainder will come from Mills and other private investors.
But until the final race is sailed just where and when the next America's Cup will take place is on hold, and meanwhile the Brits can only sit and watch and wonder . . . What if . . ?