For the first time in its 160-year history, a challenge has been made by a South Korean Yacht Club for the America’s Cup, the oldest trophy in international sports. The Sail Korea Yacht Club, represented by Team Korea, has been officially accepted as a challenger for the 34th America’s Cup.
Team Korea will be known as the ‘White Tiger Challenge’. The White Tiger, or ‘Baekho’ in Korean, is one of the revered ancient guardian gods in Korean mythology, ferocious and potent, a fitting image for a team from one of the world’s major industrial nations with long term America’s Cup ambitions.
Founder of Team Korea is Dong Young-Kim, an accomplished sailor and the organizer of one of the biggest prize money sailing events in the world, The Korea Match Cup. In launching Team Korea, he intends to boost public interest and knowledge of the America’s Cup and hopes to attract new people to take up sailing as their support for the team grows.
In announcing the team he said, ‘’The America’s Cup is not only the world’s oldest sporting trophy, it is one of the most celebrated, with a tradition, glamour and attraction like no other. Some of the most famous people in world history have competed in this event trying to win this coveted trophy, enjoying the honor of taking part and representing both club and country.”
“Now it is Korea’s turn to enter this famous competition for the first time, at the start of what will prove to be one of the biggest changes the Cup has ever seen, with these new high speed, radical, wing-sailed catamarans, designed to appeal beyond those already interested in sailing. This is a unique opportunity for us to create excitement around the sport in Korea, and introduce newcomers to the events through the awe-inspiring TV images we expect to see.’’
He continued, ‘’As a new team we do not have the experience and legacy of others involved, and so we are realistic about building together a group of people for this challenge, and setting ourselves sensible targets with our first competitive challenge. We see this America’s Cup campaign as a learning experience which we can build on for the future, while improving through the regatta series this year. We have discussions ongoing presently which we hope will provide the necessary resources, sponsorships and long-lasting commitments we desire, and aim to make more announcements shortly in what is proving to be a very exciting time in the ongoing evolution of the America’s Cup.’’
The inaugural 2011/12 America’s Cup World Series begins this summer with three regattas to be staged in Portugal, UK and USA. A further series is planned for 2012/13, before the Louis Vuitton Cup for all the Challengers in San Francisco in 2013, followed by the 34th America’s Cup match itself. Racing begins in new AC45 catamarans, which are then replaced by giant 72 foot wing sailed ‘monsters’, potentially capable of over 40 knots speed, competing in a combination of both fleet and match racing.
“One of our major goals for the new America’s Cup is to enable teams to be sustainable sports franchises, so we’re excited to see Korea enter the America’s Cup for the first time, with sights set on building a team for the future,” Chairman of the America’s Cup Event Authority, Richard Worth said.
‘’Having a country such as Korea enter the America’s Cup adds to the global impact of our event, so we’re very pleased to welcome Team Korea to our growing field of international competitors.”
Team Korea becomes the ninth Challenger accepted, together with two teams each from France and Italy, one each from China, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand, plus the Defender from the USA. There are three additional challengers who have yet to announce and two more are in the process of having their challenges vetted, making a total of 15 teams set to compete in the 34th America’s Cup.