Four times Olympic medalist, Ben Ainslie (GBR) today announced the formation of Ben Ainslie Racing, which will compete in the America's Cup World Series from September 2012.
No sailing team members were announced at the media conference staged at the Festival Hall, London, however the management team will be headed by Grant Simmer, formerly with Ainslie at the previous British America's Cup entity, TeamOrigin. Two others were named on the management side of Ben Ainslie Racing.
The new team will be underwritten by the America's Cup Defender Oracle Racing but will Challenge under the auspices of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, which has a long association with Ainslie. The plan is to seek commercial sponsors for the team.
Although the team is described as being an America's Cup team, it has no intention of stepping up to an AC72 campaign for 2013, and will sail in the America's Cup World series only. BAR is the first of the now ten teams entered to have stated from the outset that they have no intention of competing in the 34th America's Cup.
Ainslie's line is that he, personally will race with BAR for the America's Cup World Series, who represent the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, and then he will have almost a dual role, personally, with the Defender, Golden Gate Yacht Club and their team Oracle Racing. He explained that due to time constraints, BAR would not be challenging for the America's Cup. However Ainslie said that he hoped BAR would be a Challenger for the America's Cup in the future.
The final ACWS event finishes on 19 May 2013 in Naples, and it would seem that at that point BAR would suspend operations until after the 34th America's Cup, and Ainslie himself would physically be working with the Defender and 'would do whatever I can to help them to defend the America's Cup'.
Russell Coutts explained that their initial discussions with Ainslie centred around having him joining the Oracle Racing team, however Ainslie countered saying that he wanted his own team, and this led to the current arrangement.
It is not clear exactly what Ainslie's role would be in the Oracle Racing camp, given that they already have an established skipper in James Spithill, and several other key sailors who would seem to be well established in their positions.
Coutts, in his role as CEO of Oracle Racing explained that they had to mount the best possible racing program as a Defender to prepare for the Match - which led to their approach to Ainslie, and that would largely be up to Ainslie as to where he fitted in and how he progressed. 'He could be a helmsman, or a tactician, and is certainly strongly enough to work elsewhere as well.'
'I would certainly rather that he was working with us, rather than sailing against us in this America's Cup.'
'We get the use of his sailing ability in the AC72 program, and Ben gets to use that knowledge in the future', Coutts added.
The cost of the running an America's Cup World Series team was put at about 3million Euros. Coutts says that while it is still a lot of money, that's an affordable budget for teams to get established, and build the commercial support platform they require for a full America's Cup campaign. 'We're providing new teams with visibility at low cost', he concluded.
The official release from Ben Ainslie Racing reads:
10th January 2012 London, UK - Three time Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie today announced the launch of a new team that will initially compete in the next edition of the America’s Cup World Series along with plans to join ORACLE Racing for the defence of the 34th America’s Cup.
Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) will compete in the 2012/13 America’s Cup World Series (ACWS), following the completion of Ainslie’s London 2012 Olympic campaign in the Men’s Singlehanded Heavy Dinghy (Finn class) event.
The new global America’s Cup World Series circuit attracts some of the best sailors in the world in high speed 45 foot wing-sailed catamarans.
With the announcement of a new team, the triple Gold Olympic medallist also set out his long term vision to challenge for the 35th America’s Cup following the conclusion of the 34th Cup in San Francisco in 2013: 'I’ve always tried to have a plan of what I’m doing next after the Olympics. The 2012 Olympics has been the focus, but from that has come the opportunity to be able to build a team which we hope can ultimately go on to challenge for the 35th America’s Cup.'
Four times America’s Cup winner and ORACLE Racing’s CEO Russell Coutts fully backed Ainslie’s goal to create his own future America’s Cup team. 'With all the things that we are doing to improve the America’s Cup commercially, I think this is a great time for someone like Ben to be laying the foundations for his own team. With the massive improvements to televising the racing and staging it right where fans can see it, there has never been a better arena for stars such as Ben.'
Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) will be entering the America’s Cup World Series under the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, which has supported the Olympian since the beginning of his career. Ben said: 'It’s my home club; it’s where I grew up. I’ve had so much support from the club over the years, it seemed a natural fit.'
The AC World Series will provide a great testing ground and platform for Ben, as will joining ORACLE Racing for their 2013 defence. Ben will be added to an already impressive line-up which includes some of the best sailors in the world, such as James Spithill, youngest ever winning skipper of the oldest trophy in international sport, and Russell Coutts.
It will be the 34 year old Briton’s fourth America’s Cup campaign. After the 2000 Sydney Olympics Ainslie joined the American ‘One World Challenge’. Post-Athens in 2004 he helped ‘Team New Zealand’ lift the Louis Vuitton Cup before joining Sir Keith Mills start -up campaign ‘TEAMORIGIN’ as skipper after his victory at the Beijing Olympics.
On joining ORACLE Racing Ainslie said: 'It’s a fantastic opportunity, I have a huge amount of respect for Russell, Jimmy and everyone involved. I think with the direction the Cup has taken in the last few years, it’s actually really important that ORACLE Racing win again and it continues on the path that it has taken. I’m very excited about it and hopefully I can help the team retain the Cup.'
Welcoming Ben to the America’s Cup, Coutts said: 'It’s fantastic for the America’s Cup that we’ve got a three time Olympic gold medallist, four time Olympic medallist, hopefully soon to become five. The America’s Cup without Ben would be a little bit like Wimbledon without Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
He’s the number one sailor in the world right now and it’s fantastic to have him involved in our team.'
The iconic America's Cup trophy was originally awarded in 1851 by Britain’s Royal Yacht Squadron for a race around the Isle of Wight, to the schooner America. The trophy was renamed the America's Cup after the boat and was donated to the New York Yacht Club under the terms of the Deed of Gift, which made the Cup available for perpetual international competition.
Ainslie will not rule out another bid for Olympic gold in Brazil 2016, but for now he sees his future with the America’s Cup.