Sir Ben Ainslie, one of Britain’s best sailors, launched his bid on June 10 to win the America’s Cup, the 163-year old trophy never won by Great Britain.
“This is the last great historic sporting prize never won by Great Britain,” said Sir Ben, a four-time Olympic gold medal winner. He announced his challenge with Yacht Squadron Racing. “It has always been my ambition to mount a home challenge. The time is right and I am hugely encouraged by the support we are getting, not least from the Duchess of Cambridge. I learned a great deal aboard Oracle in San Francisco and I would not be challenging if I did not believe we have a real chance of winning this time.”
In 2013, Ainslie became the first Briton to be part of a winning America’s Cup team in 110 years with Oracle Team USA, which overturned an 8:1 deficit to Team New Zealand to retain the trophy. The challenge is from Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR).
“This campaign is about righting a wrong,” said Sir Charles Dunstone, chairman of BAR’s board. “We have never won it. We have an amazing maritime history. The Cup has to come home, we have to do that.”
The team will represent Yacht Squadron Racing, which is affiliated with the Royal Yacht Squadron, and it means that should BAR be successful and win the Cup, it will bring it back to Cowes and the place where it all began 163 years ago.
“We are absolutely delighted to be working with our member Sir Ben Ainslie in his patriotic quest to bring the America’s Cup back to Britain,” said Royal Yacht Squadron Commodore Christopher Sharples. “Since losing the original race in 1851, the Squadron have made a number of unsuccessful attempts to win the Cup, the previous and most recent occasion was in 1958.
“Sir Ben has impressed us with his incredible track record, his total commitment, his ability to build a most impressive management team and recruit some of the world’s top sailors and designers with the relevant experience.”
BAR has been in gestation since 2011, when Ainslie first started to look ahead to life beyond the Olympics. He spoke with Oracle Team USA (OTUSA) CEO Russell Coutts with the intention of buying an AC45 multihull to compete in the 2012-13 America’s Cup World Series. Coutts instead offered him a job.
Ainslie subsequently negotiated both. It worked out well for both OTUSA and Ainslie, who gathered crucial experience. As a result, Ainslie was substituted onto the U.S. boat in the tactician’s role for the 34th America’s Cup. The spectacular 9:8 OTUSA victory provided the perfect springboard for Ainslie to return to the UK and seek support for a British effort.
The first meetings last October were with Sir Charles Dunstone and Sir Keith Mills. Their commitment gave Ainslie the fuel to find other private investors to build a viable British challenge.
Following the 2013 Cup, the transfer market for the top design talent was predictably hot, but the private investor funding already achieved made it possible to attract several top names. Technical Director and two-time America’s Cup winner Andy Claughton (GBR) will lead the design team. Initial signings include six-time America’s Cup winners Dirk Kramers (NED/USA) and four times winner Clay Oliver (USA). Designer and performance optimization expert Jason Ker (GBR); aero and hydrodynamics specialist Rodrigo Azcueta (ARG); hydrofoiling catamaran specialist (and America’s Cup winner with BMW Oracle for the 33rd America’s Cup) Benjamin Muyl (FRA) are already on board.
BAR plans to forge strong relationships wherever the skills and technology are to be found – not just in the traditional marine industry – and it will create these relationships based on a sustainable business model. And just as many F1 teams develop and bring to market the technologies they produce, BAR will look to replicate this model in its own way.
The Sailing Team Manager will be the New Zealander and three-times America’s Cup winner Jono Macbeth, who sailed with Ainslie in both the 2007 and 2013 America’s Cups. Other signings at this early stage include Britain’s David Carr and Nick Hutton who both raced with Luna Rossa in the 34th America’s Cup, Andy McLean (NZL) who was part of the Artemis Racing team in 2013 and former World Match Race Champion Matt Cornwell (GBR).
The rest of the management team is made up of James Stagg, who takes the role of Shore Team Manager; Andy Hindley has joined as Chief Operating Officer, a position he also held with the America’s Cup Race Management organization for the event in San Francisco; Ainslie’s long-term Commercial Manager Jo Grindley heads up the commercial, marketing, communications and events teams.
The British team also announced its first major partner – 11th Hour Racing, a company focused on sustainable sailing. BAR will work with 11th Hour Racing to showcase a sustainable business model, encouraging staff and their supply chain to design out waste and manage resources efficiently, redesign the organizational process, work with universities, research institutions and innovative companies to develop new technologies, and create a template for the wider marine industry.
Finalists cities named
In related America’s Cup news, San Diego, Chicago and Bermuda were reported to be the three finalists to host the next America’s Cup races.
The site will be chosen by Oracle Team USA, defending champion. Software executive Larry Ellison owns OTUSA but has left the decision on the venue and rules up to CEO Russell Coutts. San Francisco was officially excluded as a venue option, according to a story by the Associated Press.
One of the finalists cities will host the challenger semifinals and finals, and America’s Cup match in 2017. If Chicago were selected, it would be the first time the race has been held on a lake. The 2017 race will be sailed on 62-foot foiling catamarans.
According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, for a city to host the event, the nearby body of water on which the race would occur must be on the sea or “an arm of the sea.” A 1984 New York Supreme Court decision ruled that under this criterion, a boat from Chicago could challenge for the Cup because Lake Michigan is considered to be an arm of the sea, the newspaper reported.
The host city is not expected to be decided until late summer.