Russell Coutts mentioned more than once last Monday that the BMW Oracle Racing’s revolutionary changes for the America’s Cup (see here and here) would inspire syndicates not previously involved with the Cup to challenge. Well, an email that arrived at Sailing World world headquarters this morning backs up that claim. Apparently Mark Belvedere, who is the owner/operator of the Treasure Island Eueiki Eco Resort in the Kingdom of Tonga, is hoping to lead a Tongan challenge for the 34th America’s Cup. I have already notified Dave Reed that I will volunteer to do an exhaustive on-site investigation of their facilities!
The email, which included a letter from Fineasi Funaki, the Tongan Minister for Tourism, says, in part: “This letter that I have attached [at right, or click here for a larger view] is to hope that Larry Ellison and his design rule commity recognizes that the Americas’ Cup should allow a country and its’ technology to enter into the Americas’ Cup ACCORDING TO THE DEED OF GIFT.”
The letter talks about Tonga’s long history with multihulls and sailing. Certainly if history were a factor in the equation, Tonga would have a big headstart. Most people target Capt. Nat Herreshoff’s Amaryllis (launched 1876) as the first modern catamaran. Polynesian peoples used outrigger canoes to sail the Pacific hundreds if not thousands of years ago.
While the challenge, and the letter, may sound a little half baked (or 99 and 44/100s-percent baked, given that Tonga’s GNP is around $400 million, or only 10 times what Coutts estimated it would take for a low-budget challenge) Belvedere does have some experience in the speed sailing world, having built a rather quick proa in the late 1990s. According to the letter, he attempted a speed record in Tonga in 2004. For more on that effort, click here.
**Keep the Cup in America
Apparently, public support is something in which BMW Oracle Racing is placing a bit of stock as it deliberates on the venue for the 34th America’s Cup. The America’s Cup Organizing Committee-San Francisco is aiming to, over the next few weeks, get 10,000 names on its Facebook page and thousands of letters to the team and the mayor’s office. So if you’d like to see the 34th America’s Cup defended on home soil, then start pounding those keyboards.
To show your support for the AC34 in San Francisco: