London (AFP) – Britain’s chances of winning the America’s Cup for the first time have improved immeasurably with a massive investment says their most decorated sailor Ben Ainslie.
The 41-year-old — who staged a remarkable comeback in the 2013 edition to win the oldest sporting trophy skippering the United States team Oracle — writes in The Daily Telegraph that the next challenge is “light years” apart from his previous failed bid for Britain with the Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) team in 2017.
The quadruple Olympic champion says that is down to the successful conclusion of talks with INEOS, one of the world’s top ten chemical companies, who have agreed to invest £110million ($153million, 126million euros) in the bid to win in 2021 where the defending champions are New Zealand.
The yachting legend — who will head a team called INEOS Team GB — says it is a “game changer” although he admits his former backers were “disappointed” at the turn of events but “supportive of the project”.
“It has been a whirlwind few weeks. The decision to go this route was not taken lightly,” wrote Ainslie.
“It is a massive shift from the previous model we had, which had been to build a commercially sustainable structure through a mixture of investors and commercial partners.”
Ainslie said the costs of around £110 million to build two 75-foot (22.86- metre) foiling monohulls was unattainable with their previous partners but meeting Jim Ratcliffe, the chairman of INEOS, changed everything.
“Jim immediately understood the project and what was required if we were to be competitive,” said Ainslie.
“Amazingly, Jim agreed to underwrite the entire campaign.
“Jim’s quid pro quo –- quite reasonably –- was that if he was going to inject this much into the project, it needed to be a completely blank slate.”
Ainslie — whose part of the bargain is to provide his expert knowledge, the team and the boats — says the first half-scale test boat will be launched this summer.
“Compared with where we were at this stage in the last cycle, it is light years apart,” said Ainslie.
“I think today’s announcement sends a statement of intent and one which I believe gives us the best opportunity to bring the America’s Cup back to Britain –- where it belongs.”
Ainslie drily remarked that The Prospect of Whitby pub where the new partnership was announced is not only the oldest riverside pub in London but also where pirates were hanged.
While the America’s Cup was commissioned by the British Royal Yacht Squadron for a race in 1851, “America” from the United States took the prize and no British boat has ever won it.
“Hopefully, we will avoid that fate if we can bring the America’s Cup back to Britain after 170 years.”