Could a Grainger 9.5m and an Extreme 40 lead to an Aussie America's Cup challenge?

After conquering the competitive V8 Supercars circuit, motor racing enthusiast and two-times Bathurst winner Tony Longhurst is transferring his attention to racing fast catamarans. And it could lead all the way to an Australian challenge for the America's Cup.

Longhurst, who owns The Boat Works at Coomera on the Gold Coast, campaigned a Grainger 9.5m at Hamilton Island and in other regattas with Noosa Marine manager Julian Griffiths last year and recently bought the former SAP Extreme 40 so he can go even faster. And according to a report in the Gold Coast Bulletin, he has not ruled out an America's Cup challenge.

Longhurst told reporter Ryan Keen that “it would be amazing for the Gold Coast to have a crack at the America's Cup”.

“If the rules stabilise a bit and it becomes a bit more affordable — and I think that’s the way it’s heading — then who knows?” he is reported as saying. “If we can handle this boat (SAP) without tipping up then we’ll try to get a foiling boat and two years from now we might be able to (challenge).”

The idea has the support of Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate and Longhurst's brother Rodney who owns the Riviera brand of power boats.

Australia's last Americas Cup bid, backed by the late Bob Oatley, was short-lived. The Oatley family withdrew their support when they realised that Cup Supremo Russell Coutts was setting the rules and they would have little input. 

Since that time, the move to a smaller 48ft cat and the use of some standard componentry has brought the cost of a challenge down from the reported $250 million Larry Ellison spent defending the Cup in San Francisco in 2013 with Oracle Team USA and the more than $100 million spent by the challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand. The accepted figure for a competitve challenge is now closer to $US50 million, still a major investment but one that would bring many times that amount in benefits to the Gold Coast should a syndicate from that city be successful in winning the Cup.

We will be watching Tony's progress with the Extreme 40, and hoping he doesn't “tip up”.

– Roger McMillan

Read the full Gold Coast Bulletin article here.

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