Sailor Ben Ainslie Leads Britain's Challenge For 2017 America's Cup
Sailor Ben Ainslie will lead a $134M British challenge for the 35th America's Cup in '17, "aiming to return sport's oldest trophy to his country for the first time," according to Josh Reich of REUTERS. Ainslie has now "set his sights on a British challenge," seeking to lead his country to a first win since the competition began in 1851. The venue for the 2017 regatta has yet to be confirmed, but new protocols, including nationality requirements, have been negotiated by software billionaire Larry Ellison, owner of Oracle, and Team Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club, the Challenger of Record. Ainslie: "It's a huge challenge, there's no doubt about it." Telecom entrepreneur Charles Dunstone said that 40% of the budget "would come from wealthy individuals." Dunstone: "We needed to form a team before we stand credibly before you today" (REUTERS, 6/10). In London, Simon Greaves reported the bid "had sufficient backing from a team of private investors" -- as opposed to campaigns funded solely by wealthy individuals such as Larry Ellison’s Oracle crew -- "to appeal for commercial sponsorship." Candidate ports to be the British base for his team "are being studied." At the same time, a venue for a British 45ft catamaran racing regatta "are being considered, Plymouth’s hosting of a successful 2011 event making it among the frontrunners" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/10). The AP reported Dunstone and Ainslie "have been in contact with different British F1 teams to get them involved in the project." Ainslie confirmed that Red Bull F1 team design chief Adrian Newey "could help with the boat's aerodynamics and technologies." Ainslie: "He is the most successful Formula One designer in history and is keen on sailing the America's Cup. He has a lot of commitment still with Formula 1 and it really just depends how he could perhaps fits something in to be involved with the team. It would be a huge asset for us if he can find time." Ainslie was joined at the ceremony by the Dutchess of Cambridge, "a keen sailor herself" (AP, 6/10). Ainslie wrote a piece for the London TELEGRAPH in which he said Dunstone, Mills and Chris Bake "were working behind the scenes to help build a group of private investors." Since then they have been joined by Irvine Laidlaw, Ian Taylor, Jon Wood and Peter Dubens "as further investors in the team." Also, Michael Grade and Robert Elliot "have joined as independent board members" (TELEGRAPH, 6/10). The BBC reported despite the excitement surrounding the '13 competition, the "organisers generated little money from TV coverage." Now, Oracle CEO Russell Coutts "is determined to change that." He "is determined the competition will be a commercial as well as visual success." Coutts: "Clearly all the broadcasters last time saw the potential of the America's Cup. We currently have a lot more commercial interest this time, in comparison to last time." Broadcasters and sponsors, of course, "want excitement." To deliver that Coutts, who is from New Zealand, "is keen to raise the level of the teams entering the next series." Coutts: "That was one of the things that didn't go right last time, we didn't have enough strong teams in the competition" (BBC, 6/10).