Bertrand laments dominance of cash in today’s America’s Cup

Cash is king: John Bertrand said the America’s Cup has become a battle of the chequebooks. Photo: Anthony JohnsonAs John Bertrand and his former crewmates of Australia II assembled in Sydney to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their America’s Cup victory, they shared a lament about this year’s cliffhanger battle for the Auld Mug in San Francisco.

Skipper Bertrand regretted the Australian presence this year was only as part of foreign crews, rather than in a united Australian campaign. He was not alone in this thought on the eve of a gala lunch to commemorate Australia II’s come-from-behind 4-3 win against Dennis Conner’s Liberty on September 26, 1983.

The 2013 America’s Cup has come down to a decider after the defenders, Oracle Team USA, beat the Team New Zealand challengers in the 17th and 18th races on San Francisco Bay on Wednesday to level the series 8-8 after being 8-1 down a week ago. The 19th and deciding race was scheduled for Thursday morning (Sydney time).

The campaigns of Oracle Team USA and Team New Zealand have included plenty of Australians. Helmsman James Spithill, strategist Tom Slingsby, wing trimmer Kyle Langford, grinders Will McCarthy and Sam Newton and coach Darren Bundock are on Oracle Team USA; on Team New Zealand there have been bowman Adam Beashel and wing trimmer Glenn Ashby. And that does not include shore crews and technical teams.

Asked about the prospect of Australia returning to the America’s Cup competition, Bertrand smiled and said: ”We have more Australians in these international foreign teams than any other nation in the world.

”So it’s not a problem about the number of people involved, or the technology. It’s really the cash. [Cup campaigns] are a hundred-million-dollar program. That’s too expensive. They need to get that back.”

However, whether it is through sheer passion or belief in the Cup and that Australia should have a place in it, Bertrand is optimistic the money needed to fund an Australian campaign may still emerge. Such money is not likely to come from government – as much of it did for Team New Zealand’s campaign. But Bertrand believes the developments in this year’s America’s Cup format and its dramatic finale could entice a rich Australian businessman, as it has with American Larry Ellison who has bankrolled the Oracle campaign

”I think there are multi-billionaires, entrepreneurs in this country who want to move from being a regional trader to a global trader,” Bertrand said. ”And the America’s Cup can be the vehicle. It’s the most prestigious sporting event in the world in this space, particularly in Europe. Larry Ellison, Mr America’s Cup … he’s been launched globally.”

Former Australia II tactician Hugh Treharne believes much Australian sailing talent is going to waste without an Australian Cup campaign.

”We have to scoop them up. We have to make sure that they are all nationals on each boat,” Treharne said on Wednesday. ”That’s the way it always should’ve been. When they went away from that it was very sad.”

Twitter- @rupertguinness

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