The GBR Challenge British America's Cup Team announced today that it is to suspend current operations.
Peter HARRISON, Founder and Chairman of the team, who has managed so far to gain a commitment of £20m from himself and private investors, conditional upon securing additional corporate funding to complete the budget, has made this decision due to the lack of significant corporate partners committing funds to support the venture at this stage.
Founder Peter HARRISON, who totally funded GBR Challenge for the 31st America's Cup event in New Zealand during 2001 to 2003 (the first British America's Cup Team after a lapse of 15 years), has continued to fully fund the team in its preparations for the 2007 event. The syndicate has been designed to promote continuity, build on the experience of the last challenge and place the campaign at the highest competitive level and give Britain the best possible chance of winning the trophy. The 32nd America's Cup takes place between 2005 and 2007 across a number of regattas in various European venues culminating with the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series and America's Cup Match finals in Valencia, Spain during April to July 2007.
Peter Harrison commented, "It is with great disappointment that we have to make this announcement today. We were confident that with the combination of the event coming to Europe and evolving in its format to grow its already huge television audience and general profile as an event. We have spent 18 months promoting the team and the event and obviously we had hoped that we would have attracted major corporate backing by now to enable us to compete at the highest level.
"The America's Cup is a very valuable marketing opportunity in terms of brand awareness, association and media coverage as well as offering hospitality opportunities in over 10 pre-regattas as well as the 2007 final events. With over 10m visiting spectators expected, I believe that the 'World Cup of Sailing', offers a guaranteed return on investment for any organisation to tap into. It is tragic that no corporate partner has yet come forward to take on this exciting and valuable opportunity."
Peter HARRISON and the team's vision has always been long term. At the launch of GBR Challenge in January 2001 Peter set up a business model whereby he would provide the backing for the first challenge and build up the continuity for others to join in and possibly take the lead in the future. Since April 2003, the GBR Challenge Management Team has created a highly competitive, commercially viable operation. The team has successfully completed full planning and budgeting phases and carried out further developments on GBR 70 'Wight Lightning' during an 8 week sailing programme in summer 2004. The team has also completed three rounds of tank testing and has instigated the process to convert GBR 70 and 78 to Version 5 design for the 2005 season of official America's Cup racing regattas.
Most recently additional momentum has been gained through the involvement of Charles DUNSTONE, CEO of Carphone Warehouse, who confirmed that he was assisting GBR Challenge to secure the necessary additional funding. Charles, together with Peter Harrison's input, has also introduced an innovative proposal, which focuses on using the team's campaign and profile as a vehicle to promote and benefit a leading humanitarian charity. Over the last three weeks this proposal has received significant interest and support from potential corporate partners and charities alike. The GBR Challenge commercial team will still continue to focus all of its attention on progressing those discussions to a positive conclusion.
With technical development costs increasing in line with the planned programme, a full review of team strategy has been held and an agreement was reached by all that, as from today's announcement, Peter Harrison should not carry these substantial development costs on his own without the support of additional partner funds.
Leslie RYAN, Head of Sponsorship and Marketing for the team remarked, "Peter Harrison has single-handedly got Great Britain back into the America's Cup. His generosity and vision are appreciated by this team and by sailors and supporters throughout the country. However, he and the Management Team have concluded that without additional corporate partners willing to commit funds at this crucial stage, Peter should not continue to solely fund the GBR Challenge development programme. The team fully supports this view."
The final date to enter the 32nd America's Cup is April 30th 2005, so there is still time for interested parties to contact the team, examine the benefits and help ensure the future of this challenge.
Peter HARRISON closed by stating, "The past four years have been both immensely enjoyable and extremely frustrating. Seeing a British boat back competing in this 'World Cup of Sailing' was, perhaps one of the proudest moments of my life, having to issue this statement today, one of the saddest. Sailing is currently Britain's most successful Olympic sport with 5 medals won in each of the last two Olympic games and, as a sport, is definitely on the increase in terms of participation, media coverage and general profile. I am still hopeful that corporate partners with vision and imagination will come forward to support this team and gain valued return on their investment in what is sure to be a major world class event."