America's Cup - December 2013

There were many times when Iain Murray was stuck between a rock and a hard place during a stressful summer of sailing in San Francisco for the former regatta director for the 34th America's Cup and CEO of America's Cup Race Management.

The Australian former Cup skipper did not cover himself in glory following the death of his fellow Star sailor and friend, Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson, when he said that the fatal Artemis catastrophe was “not on the radar for any of us”. For much of the time Murray looked like he’d rather be anywhere than sitting at a press conference trying to explain or justify matters that were beyond his control. Trying to keep the peace between the organisers of the America’s Cup - ie the Defender - and the challengers is an impossible task.

So it’s no surprise that Murray will not be reprising that role for the 35th Cup. The good news for him - and the Cup - is that the ‘Big Fella’ has taken up the role of CEO of Team Australia, the Hamilton Island Yacht Club Challenger of Record. Having worked on the inside, Murray has a good understanding of how Team Oracle USA thinks and operates. At the same time, we hope Murray will be able to remove himself sufficiently from his old loyalties to do the right thing by his new employer and the other challenger teams.

Team Australia has yet to announce any big name Australian sailors, although they will surely follow. Could Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill be lured away from the team that has twice steered to victory in the America’s Cup? For someone who’s already won the Cup twice, surely the next big goal is to bring the Cup back to your country of birth. The street-smart 35-year-old is not ruling out a departure from Larry Ellison’s team. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Larry,” says Spithill. “But also, I’ve been approached by a lot of teams and I need to weigh them all up. Larry and I are speaking and we’ll just have to see how things turn out.”

He makes no bones about the priorities of being a professional athlete. “It’s a business. I’ve always looked up to athletes that are able to get the results on the sporting field and also are able to make really smart business decisions,” he says.

The only big name sailor confirmed for Oracle is Tom Slingsby, the Australian Olympic gold medallist who shared the decision-making with Ben Ainslie at the back of the Oracle AC72. Spithill sure would be a big catch for Hamilton Island, or any other challenger team for that matter. He is in the enviable position of being able to name his price.

Before he was snapped up by Oracle some years ago, Spithill’s previous employer was Luna Rossa, from whom he departed on good terms. Perhaps it’s not out of the question that he could return to the Italian team, although there’s no indication this will happen. I was reporting at the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia in late November, and Luna Rossa was fielding a team there, at the final event on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. Francesco Bruni was skippering the Luna Rossa entry, with team boss Max Sirena running the middle of the boat.

Having beaten Ben Ainslie in the final of the previous Tour event a month earlier in Bermuda, Bruni was rediscovering the thrill of match racing at 4 knots, even after a summer of tearing around San Francisco Bay at 40 knots. “It is a different style of match racing, but it is still the same sport at a different speed and is useful for keeping your racing skills sharp,” says Bruni, who plans to compete on the Tour next year while he waits for Oracle and Team Australia to thrash out the plans and terms of the 35th America’s Cup.




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