The defence of sailing’s America’s Cup, currently held by Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, will take place off Bermuda, the organisers have announced.
The venue for the final races of the 35th running of the event was confirmed by Harvey Schiller, the race’s commercial commissioner, at a press conference in New York on Tuesday.
“The sailing conditions are near perfect,” he said. “The race course on the Great Sound [a horseshoe-shaped harbour at the southwest of the main island] is a natural amphitheatre with room for racing and spectators, amid a spectacular backdrop of islands and beaches.”
As defending champion, Mr Ellison had the right to choose where the race would take place. This will be the first time in the event’s 163-year history that a US champion has chosen to defend the trophy outside US waters.
San Diego, San Francisco and Chicago were also vying to stage the event, which will take place in 2017. The north Atlantic island, a two-hour flight from the US east coast, has a record of running world-class sailing regattas. Ìt also offers more attractive racing times for European television viewers than San Diego, its closest rival.
The announcement of the venue is important for existing and potential teams as they seek to bring sponsors on board, design their boats and assemble the best crews.
San Francisco was the setting for last year’s event, won in dramatic circumstances by Oracle Team USA. Inspired by Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie, the Olympic gold medallist, Oracle overturned an 8-1 deficit to Emirates Team New Zealand in a thrilling climax to win the series 9-8.
Jimmy Spithill, who skippered Oracle Team USA last year, said: “Bermuda will be an incredible experience for the spectators, both on-site and those watching the broadcast. And, for the sailors, it is going to be very challenging.”
Sir Ben will lead his own team, Ben Ainslie Racing, this time round, aiming to become the first winner of a British-owned boat since the “Auld Mug” was first raced for round the Isle of Wight in 1851.
The format requires him and other challengers to race each other in locations around the world. The winner of the series earns the right to face Mr Ellison’s team in Bermuda.
In the challenger series Sir Ben’s team will face at least four outfits: Sweden’s Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Challenge of Italy and Team France. Other teams from Canada, Russia, Greece, China and Japan have expressed interest, but none has confirmed. A proposed team from Australia withdrew in the summer.
This first stage begins next summer off Portsmouth, England, before switching to Gothenburg in Sweden, and Bermuda. A total of 10 regattas will take place around the world in 2015 and 2016 before the main event, back in Bermuda.
Mr Ellison, the third-richest American behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, is seeking a third straight victory. The billionaire co-founder of Oracle software beat the Swiss biotech billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi in 2010.
Earlier this year he quit as chief executive of Oracle – he is now executive chairman and chief technology officer – and this may allow him to devote more of his time to sailing.
Asked why he was so keen to win again, Mr Ellison said: “I realised after losing twice that my personality wouldn’t allow me to quit while losing. Then after winning the America’s Cup, I discovered my personality doesn’t allow me to quit while winning. I don’t smoke, but I do sail.”