Bermuda to host 2017 America's Cup

New York (AFP) - Bermuda, with its stunning backdrop of crystal clear waters and pink sands, will host the world's greatest sailing race, the America's Cup, in 2017, organisers announced Tuesday.

It will mark the first time that a US team has defended the prestigious cup -- the oldest trophy in international sport -- in foreign waters.

"I'm pleased to announce that the next America's Cup will be held in June of 2017 in Bermuda," Harvey Schiller, commercial commissioner for the 35th America's Cup told a news conference in New York.

Schiller said the venue had been chosen for its great sailing conditions, ability to host spectators on land and water and the teams in one location, its "amazing" scenery and time zone that worked well for international TV broadcast.

"There was one spot that offered everything we needed to make the 2017 America's Cup an exceptional event," he said.

Oracle Team USA, based in San Francisco, made one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history in September 2013 to win the last America's Cup in a decisive duel over Team New Zealand.

It will be challenged by five teams in chasing the oldest trophy in international sport -- Artemis Racing, Ben Ainslie Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Challenge and Team France.

Hollywood legend Michael Douglas, whose mother came from Bermuda, and his Oscar-winning wife Catherine Zeta Jones, attended a photo call with Cup officials and team captains at a swanky New York hotel after the announcement.

Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill said racing in the Great Sound would be challenging but that the entire track would be visible.

"It's about getting the fans, spectators on the sidelines like at a football match and this race course allows that," he told reporters.

"The downside of San Francisco, as great as it was last time as a race track, was you couldn't see the entire race track and that's a big flaw," he said.

Although the America's Cup started in 1851 with a race on the waters around the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of the English mainland, no British team has ever won the prestigious trophy.

-Ainslie 'delighted'-

British sailing great Ben Ainslie, who led Oracle Team USA to its victory in 2013, is determined to make history and bring the cup home.

"Well we're half way there," he joked at the news conference.

"I think it's a fantastic venue and certainly for us as a British team we're delighted to be going there -- a lot of strong ties, historic ties," the four-time Olympic champion told AFP.

Following reports that the New Zealand government was less keen to sink sponsorship money into a Cup in Bermuda than in second contender San Diego, Team NZ chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge said it was a fantastic venue.

"I think we'll have a really amazing event there," he told reporters. "We're going to go back and immediately start working very closely with our sponsors and the government to make sure that we're there."

Artemis helmsman Nathan Outteridge said the focus would now be getting to Bermuda to study the weather patterns and design the best possible boat.

"Every America's Cup there is one key thing that will get you over the line," he told reporters.

"Looking at the weather it's a much lighter venue than what San Francisco was so we're going to be focusing our efforts on understanding what the weather range is and working really hard over the next year or two to design a fast boat."

The event will bring enormous revenue and international exposure to the British overseas territory in the North Atlantic.

Bermuda's Prime Minister Michael Dunkley told the news conference he was thrilled his island would be the hosts.

Dunkley said Bermuda offered near-perfect sailing conditions, temperate climate for year-round training, an optimal time zone, "an intimate and unmatched setting" and would develop an event village, new hotels and spectator zones.

"Our vision is to deliver a truly unforgettable experience," he said. "America's Cup, welcome to your home for the next three years," he added.