Sir Ben Ainslie has bagged a massive sponsorship deal to boost his bid to bring the America’s Cup back to Britain.
Chemical giant INEOS, Britain’s largest privately-owned company, has put up a budget of £110 million to challenge for the Auld Mug in New Zealand in 2021.
“It’s a big moment for the team,” says Ainslie. “We’re in the strongest position we have ever been in. It’s an exciting time.”
Ben Ainslie Racing were knocked out in the semi-finals in Bermuda last year when backed by Land Rover and a portfolio of private and corporate sponsors.
The new deal means the campaign is renamed INEOS Team GB, and guarantees the funding all the way to the Auckland climax.
INEOS is owned by Lancashire-born industrialist Jim Ratcliffe, a keen sailor and adventurer who has been investing more of his wealth in sport in recent years. His company owns a global network of refineries and posted annual pre-tax profits of £2 billion last month.
“INEOS has taken on many serious projects in the past but none more exciting than this,” he says. “We have a first-class team and will do everything we can to bring this trophy back to Britain where it belongs.”
The team will remain in their Portsmouth base, where designs are already being drawn for the 75ft foiling monohulls by Nick Holroyd, the New Zealander behind his nation’s 7-1 victory over Oracle Team USA last year.
Ainslie will skipper the racing yacht, with fellow British Olympic gold medallist Giles Scott as tactician.
Grant Simmer, the Australian who has won the America’s Cup four times and was hired by Ainslie last year, will be CEO of INEOS Team GB.
Critically, the new funding will allow the team to build a second boat that will offer huge advantages both in design and technology, and training.
“The cost is about 30 per cent up on the last campaign, so this deal is a big shift in that we are able to set our strategy early,” says Ainslie. “It gives us the foundation of a committed budget.”
Ainslie is the most decorated sailor in Olympic history and was Oracle Team USA’s tactician when it staged a remarkable comeback from 8-1 down to win the 2013 America’s Cup 9-8.
The Cup was first contested in 1851 at the Royal Yacht Squadron off the south coast of England, when 15 of its boats raced and lost to the US yacht America, which gave the oldest trophy in international sport its name.
Story is by Tim Gow at express.co.uk