A British challenge for the 31st America's Cup was announced this morning (January 31) at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in London.

A British challenge for the 31st America’s Cup was announced this morning (January 31) at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in London. The Louis Vuitton Challenger Series for the America’s Cup will commence in Auckland, New Zealand in October 2002 with Great Britain, after an absence of 14 years, assured of a team on the start line.

GBR Challenge Company Ltd (GBR Challenge), the first British challenge since 1987, has been set up by computer internetworking IT entrepreneur and pioneer, Peter Harrison, following the sale of his company Chernikeeff Networks, to Dimension Data Holdings Plc for a total of ‘300 million in July 1999 and August last year.

Harrison first thought of the idea of leading a British Challenge whilst competing in the Admirals Cup in Cowes in July 1999. At that stage he had just received ‘100 million from the sale of 49.9 per cent of his company, Chernikeeff Networks Ltd. He realised at that point he had the financial strength to mount a challenge. Following the completion of the sale of the remaining 50.1 per cent for ‘200 million in August 2000, Harrison set up a company in October 2000 to be the vehicle for his challenge.

Harrison has taken on the management of GBR Challenge and has personally subscribed all of the initial share capital and loan finance to date, amounting to ‘6.4 million. Harrison having run his own high technology businesses for 24 years realised that a number of key strategic actions were required to ensure that a British entry could quickly gain some “catch up know how” on IACC designs. No British design or sailing team has had any experience of building a yacht under the current IACC class rule which was first developed in 1992.

Harrison has appointed David Barnes as General Manager and double Olympic Silver medallist, Ian Walker, as Sailing Manager. Harrison has also signed up the two senior design engineers, Taro Takahashi and Akihiro Kanai who have both been fully involved with the Nippon Challenge campaigns in 1992, 1995 and 2000.

Joining them to form the Technical Design Group will be Jo Richards, a bronze silver medallist in the 1984 Olympics and Derek Clark who was involved in formulating the IACC rule.

Sailing members signed to date include: Andy Beadsworth, Ian Budgen, Mark Covell, Simon Fry, Andy Green, Neal McDonald, Chris Mason, Guy Reid, Julian Salter, Mark Sheffield, James Stagg, Adrian Stead, Richard Sydenham, Jonathan Taylor and Jim Turner. Iain Percy is considering an offer to become a part-time team member, to enable him to concentrate on his future Olympic campaign.

The GBR Challenge base will be at the FBM Yard on the Isle of Wight where the boat will be built and the team will undertake a two-boat training programme.

The Base Eight compound in the Viaduct Basin in Auckland has been acquired by Harrison where the campaign will be based while in New Zealand.

Hear the views of Peter Harrison, Jo Richards and David Barnes by following these links:

Peter Harrison interview
Jo Richards interview
David Barnes interview