Stars+Stripes joins New York Yacht Club’s America’s Cup push

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The New York Yacht Club has brought on the Stars+Stripes sailing team as part of its effort to field an all-American squad for the next multi-challenger America’s Cup.

The NYYC made the announcement Friday. The club held the America’s Cup from 1851 until 1983 but hasn’t come close to winning it back.

Stars+Stripes is led by Mike Buckley, 38, and Taylor Canfield, 32. They launched a campaign for the last America’s Cup but failed to raise enough money and didn’t make it to the starting line.

With Canfield skippering and Buckley crewing, Team Stars+Stripes won the open world match racing championship in October.

The name Stars+Stripes is a nod to Dennis Conner, who won the America’s Cup four times, the final two with boats named Stars & Stripes. Coincidentally, Conner was representing the New York Yacht Club when his 12-meter Liberty was beaten 4-3 by Australia II in the 1983 America’s Cup, ending the longest winning streak in sports.

The team that represented the NYYC in the 36th America’s Cup earlier this year, American Magic, suffered a catastrophic capsize in the challenger series round-robins and was eliminated without having won a race.

Stars+Stripes launched a challenge in late 2018 with a promise to be an all-American squad in a competition where nationality has mattered little in recent decades.

“We came up short but we had a lot of wins along the way,” Buckley said by phone. “We had to make a strategic decision to punt to AC37. I think it was the right one.”

American Magic’s agreement with the NYYC ended after the 36th America’s Cup, when Emirates Team New Zealand successfully defended the Auld Mug with a 7-3 win against Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team.

The Kiwis are pondering multiple options for the 37th America’s Cup and appear to be ready to take it offshore. There have been reports it could be a one-off regatta against a British team, or it could be a traditional regatta open to multiple challengers.

Until there’s certainty, the New York Yacht Club said it will begin working to put together a team and raise the substantial funding needed to challenge for the oldest trophy in international sports.

It’s unclear if American Magic will be part of the effort, although both sides said it’s possible. American Magic was largely funded by three principals, including motorsports titan Roger Penske, who is a New York Yacht Club member.

Terry Hutchinson, American Magic’s skipper and executive director, said the three principals indicated in March their desire to compete in the next America’s Cup, if they agreed with the protocol and venue choice.

Penske said in an email Thursday that he currently has no position about his future involvement because of the uncertainty about the next regatta.

If American Magic doesn’t re-up with the NYYC, it would have to find another yacht club to represent.

“I can’t speak to that,” Hutchinson said. “It was an honor to represent the New York Yacht Club in the America’s Cup. As a sailor it’s a true privilege. Our agreement with the New York Yacht Club ended after AC36 and American Magic as a team will continue to evaluate those options as we go forward.”

While Stars+Stripes had to stop construction on an AC75 foiling monohull, American Magic owns two AC75s, a half-size test boat and enough equipment to fill 32 shipping containers.

In December, NYYC commodore Christopher Culver said the club’s vision for the future included trying to reduce the staggering costs and imposing stricter nationality rules. But to really have a hand in changing the rules, a club first needs to win the America’s Cup.

In an email, Culver said it’s possible to have an all-American team.

“There’s a wealth of sailing and technical talent in the United States. We are confident we can field an all-American team that can compete for and win the America’s Cup,” he said.

American Magic had a New Zealand helmsman, Dean Barker, and a British mainsail trimmer, Paul Goodison.

Some in the America’s Cup community were upset that Stars+Stripes purchased a design package from Emirates Team New Zealand — effectively helping to fund the defense — in an effort to make up for lost time.

Culver said he believes the NYYC can raise enough funding via corporate sponsorships and private contributions.

“In addition to their significant sailing talent and general campaign expertise, Stars+Stripes brings with them a number of strong relationships with corporate America, which will enable the team to raise significant corporate support for our campaign,” Culver said.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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