Rumours abounding in the professional sailing world over the last several days suggest British yachtsman Iain Percy is the frontrunner to lead the newly announced Malta Altus Challenge syndicate in the 36th America’s Cup.
Percy – an Olympic gold and silver medallist in the Star Class – was the skipper and tactician for Swedish America’s Cup team Artemis Racing at the last America’s Cup in Bermuda, making him the perfect choice for a fledgling team like the Malta Altus Challenge.
The Maltese challenger led by team principal Pasquale Cataldi – an Italian born businessman based in Malta and the founder and CEO of the multinational real estate and development company Altus – was confirmed late last week as the fifth official challenger for the 36th America’s Cup by the holders Emirates Team New Zealand.
It’s the first time a Maltese challenge for the America’s Cup has been lodged and with a population of less than half a million the island nation is also the smallest ever challenger – a title previously held by New Zealand.
Percy was scheduled to compete in the Star Sailors League in The Bahamas last week but missed the opening two days of the regatta citing “an unavoidable last-minute business commitment”.
Asked to if he could confirm the rumours of his return to the America’s Cup by Star Sailors League commentator and America’s Cup pundit Peter Lester during the event’s live coverage of the final day, Percy had this to say:
“There’s a lot of rumours out there and I have read some of them myself with interest. But no, there’s nothing to announce as yet.
“The America’s Cup is a great competition and I would love to be involved. It’s interesting – a great design race, a great sailing race and to be back in New Zealand – the America’s Cup’s spiritual home – will make it all the more special.
“So let’s hope the entries come together and I would like be part of it.”
Percy’s rumoured return to the America’s Cup also raises the tantalising prospect of Artemis Racing helmsman Nathan Outteridge joining him at the Maltese syndicate. Outteridge has been been Olympic campaigning in the Nacra 17 class with his sister Haylee, and was rumoured to be close to signing with potential Italian America’s Cup challenger Columbus 2021
Last month however the Australian 49er Olympic gold and silver medallist was announced as helmsman and CEO of the Japan SailGP Team.
Whether its s realistic for him to campaign on the America’s Cup and SailGP circuits is not clear, however two of his SailGP crew – fellow Australians Luke Parkinson and Iain Jenson (both ex-Artemis Racing sailors) – are also core crew members with the British America’s Cup team INEOS Team UK.
Meanwhile other rumours suggest that a second American America’s Cup challenge – US21 led by US Virgin Islands match racer Taylor Canfield – will be the sixth challenger confirmed by Emirates Team New Zealand, possibly in the next few days.
Canfield and his campaign partner Mike Buckley had been linked with support from the Chicago area but now the likelihood is that the pair have teamed up with California’s Long Beach Yacht Club for their first tilt at the America’s Cup.
In April this year Canfield – who won the World Match Racing Tour in 2013 – claimed the Congressional Cup match racing event after defeating the New York Yacht Club’s American Magic America’s Cup crew led by Dean Barker in the finals.
In May this year Canfield and Buckley also took out another of one of the key match racing events when they won the the 68th edition of Argo Group Gold Cup.