US software billionaire Larry Ellison, the owner of Oracle Team USA, is reportedly poised to announce a new global sailing series for catamarans.
According to Australian sailing journalist Rob Mundle, the proposed ‘World Series of Sailing’ would be run in direct competition to the established America’s Cup, which has been the sport’s blue-chip event since 1851.
Oracle Team USA won the 34th America's Cup as defender in 2013 and Ellison had attempted to instigate a number of commercial changes to world sport’s longest-surviving elite contest. However, defeat to Emirates Team New Zealand in the 35th edition in Bermuda in June meant he surrendered control of the competition along with the title.
Mundle, writing on his The Voice of Sailing blog, says that the proposed new series will be contested at a ‘number of venues around the world’ and that the winning international crew will be awarded with ‘a spectacular trophy provided by French fashion house Louis Vuitton’. Significantly, the label had until last month been the naming rights sponsor of the America’s Cup challenger series, a role it had fulfilled since 1980, and was a major partner of the finals in Bermuda.
Mundle, who wrote a recent biography for Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill, believes that the same AC35 50ft long hydrofoil catamarans used for this year’s Cup would return for the World Series, with plans to ‘compete on unique, spectator-friendly courses’.
Teams from the USA, Sweden, Japan and France are said to be committed to the event and Mundle writes that ‘others are expected to follow, including one possibly headed by two-time Cup winner, Ernesto Bertarelli’.