Sir Ben Ainslie, one of Britain’s best sailors, today launched his bid to win the America’s Cup, the 163-year old trophy never won by Great Britain. The Duchess of Cambridge, a keen sailor herself, attended the launch at the Royal Museums Greenwich to show her support for the campaign.
The four-time Olympic gold medal winner, Sir Ben, who announced his challenge with Yacht Squadron Racing, said: “This is the last great historic sporting prize never won by Great Britain. 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.”
Ainslie became the world’s most successful Olympic sailor after winning a fourth gold medal in London 2012, and quickly turned his attention to his long term ambition – winning the America’s Cup for Britain. In 2013, Ainslie became the first Briton to be part of a winning America’s Cup team in 110 years with ORACLETEAM USA. He played a vital role in one of the greatest comebacks sport has ever seen, overturning an 8:1 deficit to Team New Zealand, and allowing the USA to retain the trophy. Now Ainslie is planning to take the trophy from the Americans in 2017, and bring the America’s Cup back to Britain with his team, Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR).
Sir Charles Dunstone, Chairman of BAR’s Board said: “This campaign is about righting a wrong. We have never won it. We have an amazing maritime history. The Cup has to come home; we have to do that.”
The team announced that it will be representing Yacht Squadron Racing, which is affiliated to the Royal Yacht Squadron, and it means that should BAR be successful and win the Cup for Britain it will bring it back to Cowes and place where it all began 163 years ago. Royal Yacht Squadron Commodore, Christopher Sharples, said, “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. 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 sole intention of trying to buy an AC45 multihull to compete in the 2012/13 America’s Cup World Series. Coutts had a better idea and instead offered him a job with the Americans. Ainslie subsequently negotiated both a role with OTUSA and his own World Series entry for BAR. It worked out well for both OTUSA and Ainslie, who gathered crucial experience; and as a result of circumstances, found himself substituted onto the US 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 unwavering commitment gave Ainslie the courage to push on to find other private investors to build a viable British challenge. Subsequent backing came in the form of Chris Bake, Peter Dubens, Lord Irvine Laidlaw, Ian Taylor and Jon Wood. Ex-head of the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV and a keen sailor, Lord Michael Grade was asked and agreed to take on the role as an independent board member alongside Linklaters Chairman and Senior Partner Robert Elliott.
The early investment was critical to building a successful team behind the scenes with the America’s Cup predominantly being a design contest. 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 optimisation expert Jason Ker (GBR); Aero and Hydrodynamics specialist Rodrigo Azcueta (ARG); Hydrofoiling Catamaran specialist (and America’s Cup winner with BMWOracle for the 33rd America’s Cup) Benjamin Muyl (FRA) are already on board.
The UK has consistently produced excellent performances in sports that marry the human body with a machine; we know that Britain has the sporting and technological expertise to succeed in the America’s Cup. 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 highly experienced 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 organisation 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 Inc, a company focused on sustainable sailing. BAR will showcase a sustainable business model, and rethink the way natural resources are used to deliver a winning team. BAR will work with 11th Hour Racing to achieve this, encouraging staff and their supply chain to design out waste and manage resources efficiently, redesign the organisational process, work with universities, research institutions and innovative companies to develop new technologies, and create a template for the wider marine industry.
Announcing their sponsorship of BAR, Jeremy Pochman, Director of 11th Hour Racing, Inc. said: “11th Hour Racing Incorporated promotes better practices in competitive sailing while connecting the team with the means to make our sport more sustainable and promote the health of our oceans. We committed our inaugural sponsorship to Ben Ainslie Racing because of the team’s goal to build and race sustainably for the America’s Cup.”
The team also announced that they have signed Official Partner agreements with KPMG (Business development partner), Linklaters (Legal services), Henri Lloyd (technical clothing), Siemens NX (software supplier) Scorpion Ribs (support boats) and technical supply deals with Princecroft Willis (accountancy services), Esteco SpA (engineering software), SOS Rehydrate (medical drinks) and The Goring (hospitality partner).