WESTERN Australian sailing legend Skip Lissiman hopes increased corporate support for an event he says is the “Melbourne Cup of match race sailing” will help elevate Perth’s international reputation
WESTERN Australian sailing legend Skip Lissiman hopes increased corporate support for an event he says is the “Melbourne Cup of match race sailing” will help elevate Perth’s international reputation.
Aside from an eight-year hiatus between 2001 and 2008, the Royal Perth Yacht Club and the Western Australian Yachting Foundation, have hosted the Australia Cup since 1982.
As Swan River Sailing executive officer, Mr Lissiman says he and some of Alan Bond’s America’s Cup syndicate members launched the event to give local crews some critical match-racing experience.
“Up until then the only match-racing events were held in US, so the Americans creamed everyone,” Mr Lissiman told Business Class.
“The inaugural winner was John Bertrand [who went on to captain the 1983 America’s Cup winning vessel, Australia II], so the system worked.”
He says after almost 20 years the RPYC couldn’t justify underwriting the event, putting it on hold in 2001 due to rising costs.
“It went into hibernation for a few years, partly because there wasn’t an Australian America’s Cup match-racing team plus it was getting expensive to conduct,” Mr Lissiman says.
Mr Lissiman and the Swan River Sailing board (which the Western Australian Yachting Foundation has been trading as since October) resurrected the race last year, agreeing to absorb the RPYC’s underwriting obligations amid securing sponsorship from Sunseeker and the City of Perth.
Swan River Sailing’s ‘Foundation 36’ yachts and their six-man crews return to Matilda Bay for one-on-one competition from November 24 to 27, with the finals raced between the Narrows Bridge and Barrack Street Jetty.
Mr Lissiman hopes the competitors’ list will emulate the calibre of competition last year, which included world match-racing champions Ian Williams and Ben Ainslie from Great Britain.
But he’s currently focused on garnering further corporate support to grow the local event and, in tandem with the ISAF 2011 Sailing World Championships (to be held in Fremantle next year), enhance Perth’s status as an international centre for competitive sailing. He says corporates can experience the excitement first-hand and sail on-board during the racing, riding “behind the jockey” as the sixth member of the crew.
“This is the premium, the Melbourne Cup of match race sailing,” Mr Lissiman says.
“Similar to tennis’s grand slams, sailing has 10 world match-racing tour events which are the pinnacle.
“We want to build the Australia Cup to be one of these grand slam events.
“America’s Cup really established Perth as a sailing centre but that’s waned over the years.
“This is about putting it back on the map.”