SAN DIEGO — Australia is back in the America's Cup for the first time since 2000 after a challenge by winemaker and sailor Bob Oatley was accepted by software billionaire Larry Ellison.
The challenge by the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, located on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, was announced Monday.
It was received by the Golden Gate Yacht Club on Wednesday, right after Ellison's Oracle Team USA retained the America's Cup by completing a remarkable comeback against Emirates Team New Zealand on San Francisco Bay.
The Hamilton Island Yacht Club will be the challenger of record, helping shape the rules for the 35th America's Cup along with the GGYC and other challengers.
"Given Australia's previous success in the America's Cup, the Admiral's Cup and Olympic yachting, and as proud Australians, we think it is time for our nation to be back in our sport's pinnacle event," Oatley said in a statement.
"The recently completed America's Cup in San Francisco has revolutionized the sport for sailors and fans, and we were excited to see how many Australians played key roles on the teams and in the regatta organization."
In 1983, Australia II beat Dennis Conner's Liberty to end the New York Yacht Club's 132-year winning streak in the America's Cup.
Australia last challenged for the America's Cup in 2000, when its low-budget effort was led by skipper Jimmy Spithill, who was then 20.
Spithill, now 34, has since skippered Oracle to consecutive America's Cup victories.
While Spithill is expected to remain with Oracle Team USA, he's pleased his country will be back in sailing's biggest regatta.
"Mate, it's about time," Spithill said from San Francisco. "It's been way too long. There are a lot of great athletes, designers, engineers and boat builders spread throughout all the teams. It's a great sporting nation. I think we'll see a real emergence of a lot of different countries getting involved in the cup after what we just witnessed."
Spithill steered Oracle Team USA's 72-foot catamaran to eight straight victories to retain the oldest trophy in international sports. Oracle's winning streak started after Emirates Team New Zealand reached match point with an 8-1 lead.
Spithill was one of four Australians on the 11-man crew of Oracle Team USA, which had only one American onboard for the final 14 races.
One of the other Australians on the crew was strategist Tom Slingsby, who won one of Australia's three gold medals at the 2012 Olympics. Another Aussie gold medalist, Nathan Outteridge, was skipper of challenger Artemis Racing.
Grant Simmer, the general manager of Oracle Team USA, was navigator for Australia II in 1983. Iain Murray, the regatta director for the 34th America's Cup, lost the America's Cup to Conner in 1987 and was aboard oneAustralia when it broke in two and sank off San Diego in 1995 during the challenger trials.
Appearing with his father on an Australian TV show, Sandy Oatley was asked if they'd try to get Spithill for the Australian team.