IN THE world of sailing, there has been no bigger prize than the America's Cup, and now a group of seasoned Queensland entrepreneurs wants to bring a key leg of the event to the Gold Coast.
The Longhurst family, spearheaded by brothers Tony and Rodney, has teamed up with Brisbane hair salon king Steve 'Stefan' Ackerie to lure the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series to the tourism strip.
The series is a preliminary event in the lead-up top the 2017 Americas Cup which will be held in Bermuda.
Tony Longhurst, the former V8 Supercar driver, champion waterskier and CEO of The Boat Works at Coomera, says the plan is to bid for the last remaining open leg of the preliminary challenge which is scheduled for February next year. He says failing that, the city could target the 2020 America's Cup series.
Longhurst says the race could cost as little as $5 million to stage, but deliver 'hundreds of millions of dollars' exposure for the Gold Coast to a global market.
"Actually, I'm quite blown away by how much interest there is in yachting and the America's Cup," he says.
"It's quite a feasible exercise for the publicity it could achieve. It's very affordable, but it's up to the council and the state government to support it.
"The benefits could be hundreds of millions of dollars to our community; it could be enormous.
"We will have the infrastructure and we definitely have the natural attractions the world sees as authentically Australian.
He says the consortium has talked to city council and to the Gold Coast Waterways Authority, both of which have been 'supportive'.
Longhurst, a self-confessed 'catamaran nut', says the America's Cup most Australians would remember when Alan Bond wrested it from the Yanks in 1983 has changed dramatically.
Mono-hulled vessels are out, replaced by the dynamics of super-fast catamarans.
"These catamarans, now with young crews working their arses off and with nose-dives, are like watching Formula One," he says. "To see these boats in 20 knots of breeze doing double or triple the wind speed is amazing."
Longhurst, his brother Rodney, who owns Riviera Australia, and Ackerie plan to put up seed capital for the bid ahead of garnering support from state government and Tourism and Events Queensland to host the race.
The event requires an inland course, and Longhurst says the Broadwater offers the scale to give the race spectator appeal.
Ackerie, a six-time Australian Offshore Powerboat Racing Champion, is confident the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series will have broad public support.
"When Aussies get together with a common passion and goal, nothing can stop us," he says.
"The America's Cup is world-class and it's this fame and spotlight that follows it wherever it travels that the Gold Coast can capture and really shine to a new level. This is a journey. This is step one."
The first round of the series was held in Oman at the end of February.
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