The announcement of the venue and dates for the 37th America’s Cup in 2024 has been delayed again. With the NZ government only offering $100 million dollars (!) to fund the staging of the cup, there appear to be several locations clamouring to host the event. The speculation includes Ireland, Italy, Spain and even Saudi Arabia.
I found the following article fascinating given my interest in both Formula 1 and Sailing. To explain why it is exciting news, we need to review the last cup campaign. Sir Ben Ainslie has long had an association with Sir Jim Ratcliffe, owner of the Chemical giant Ineos who seemingly has unlimited coffers when it comes to sports sponsorship. The performance of the British yacht in the pre-Christmas trials last year had been abject but, in the meantime, Ineos had finalised a deal to take a 1/3rd stake in the Mercedes Formula one team. This made their aerodynamic (and, by extension, hydrodynamic) expertise available to the Britannia sailing team. Given the time constraints and the fact that the overall parameters of the yacht were already fixed by that stage and a limitation on the number of foil designs had been used up, the expertise in the F1 team could only ‘breath on’ the niceties of the design but their intervention was transformative to such an extent that they won their next series of races. Unfortunately for the British team, the Italians also ‘upped their game’ to secure the challenger place but the potential of an F1 ‘tie up’ became obvious. So, if you are still interested, read on !
Article by Ed Gorman in the Times on Tuesday October the 5th 2021
Ben Ainslie has strengthened his tie-up with one of the most successful Formula One teams of all time as part of his continued attempt to win the America’s Cup under the Team Ineos banner.
The most successful male sailor in Olympic history has led two consecutive British attempts on sport’s oldest international trophy and came up short each time, on both occasions because his boat was not quick enough.
His solution has been to double down on what was a limited integration of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team with his Ineos-backed sailing outfit in the America’s Cup this year in Auckland. In the build-up to the next cup, which is likely to take place in 2024, the design of Ainslie’s AC75 superfast foiling monohull will not be carried out in Portsmouth but at the Northamptonshire headquarters of the Mercedes team in Brackley.
Ainslie’s naval architects will work with engineers, aerodynamicists and designers who have devoted their energies to trying to keep Lewis Hamilton and his team-mates at the top of the F1 rankings.
At the Brackley launch of the new collaboration — named Ineos Britannia — Ainslie said that the decision to essentially merge the teams reflects both his thinking and that of Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire Ineos co-founder who owns the sailing team and one third of the FI outfit.
“It’s certainly Jim’s vision in terms of investing in the F1 team in the first place and the other assets of Ineos Sport,” said Ainslie, whose most recent attempt at winning the cup ended in defeat by Luna Rossa in the challenger finals in Auckland in February. “In terms of where we went on the back of Auckland, it was really a shared vision.”
Ainslie and Ratcliffe accept that they did not come up with a quick-enough boat to be able to wrest the cup from the holders, Team New Zealand (TNZ), or even get to the cup match. And Ratcliffe seems determined to be the man who finally brings an end to Britain’s 170 years of failure in sailing’s pinnacle event, despite spending £120 million last time round with little to show for it.
“The America’s Cup has been 170 years of pain for us in Britain,” he said. “We’ve had fantastic sailors, but we’ve never had the boat that could win. We believe that assembling this unique collection of elite sports teams will give us a stronger chance of achieving what has never been done before.”
The tie-up with Ainslie is a big risk for the Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, with Hamilton struggling to retain the F1 world championship in the face of a strong challenge from the Red Bull Racing team and Max Verstappen.
Ainslie, Wolff and Ratcliffe discuss a collaboration that will aim to end 170 years of hurt for Britain
Wolff knows that if his team’s performance in F1 slips, critics will point to the sailing tie-up as an unnecessary distraction. The Austrian says that the team thought about this carefully before committing to a new relationship in which senior managers such as James Allison, the chief technical officer at Brackley, and Geoff Willis, the technical director, will devote considerable time and energy to sailing.
“You have to absolutely not discount that danger,” Wolff said, referring to the possibility of his team taking its eye off the ball. “What is key for F1 is to have no distractions and be ultra-narrow in your focus, so we thought about it a lot. And we decided to embark on the project by making clear that the organisation that runs the cup is not the organisation that runs the F1 world championship.”
Wolf added that there were similarities between Ainslie and Hamilton. “Ben is Lewis Hamilton in a sailing boat,” he said. “There are so many common character traits, it is unbelievable. They are real lions in their vehicles — just no compromise — it’s all down to raw performance and as long as the sportsperson feels that ambition and anger and enjoyment, they can be successful.”
Ainslie, 44, would not be drawn on whether this cup cycle could be his last on the steering wheel. But he did acknowledge the possibility of stepping back at some point, noting that his tactician and right-hand man, Giles Scott, is a “huge talent with plenty of years ahead of him”.
The new sailing team, with Ainslie as principal and skipper, are employing up to 50 staff at Brackley alongside designers who worked in Portsmouth. The key appointment is Martin Fischer, who replaces Nick Holroyd as chief designer. Fischer, who designed the Luna Rossa yacht, should have a good chance of matching whatever TNZ come up with.
Fischer is an undoubted talent but the king of the design castle, in the present era of radical foiling and keelless monohulls, remains TNZ’s Dan Bernasconi, who hails from Warwickshire. Ainslie admitted that he would have hired Bernasconi “in a heartbeat” but said that, with his team working closely with TNZ in the next cup cycle, that was never going to be a realistic possibility. “Out of respect to the Kiwis and our relationship we need to have with them, we didn’t go there,” he said.
Having won the cup as part of the United States Oracle team in 2013, Ainslie has been trying to win this trophy for Britain since 2014, when he set up his first team. “We’ve never won it and, in my mind, you set a goal, you’ve got to achieve it, and you keep going until you get that job done,” he said.
The venue and timing of the next cup, the 37th edition, has yet to be announced by TNZ. The plan is for it to take place in 2024, either in Auckland, or at a venue outside New Zealand. The candidates include Cork in Ireland, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia or somewhere in Spain.
By Ed Gorman
Has Britain ever won the America’s Cup?
No. The first race around the Isle of Wight in 1851, watched by Queen Victoria, saw the finest British racing yachts of the day lose to the visiting American schooner, America, and no British team has won it since then.
Where will the next America’s Cup be?
No one knows yet. Team New Zealand (TNZ), the holders, are currently trying to confirm where their next defence will take place after having turned down an offer of $NZ100 million from the government in Wellington to stage it in Auckland. The next venue was supposed to be announced on September 17 but it has now been put back. While Auckland remains a contender, there is a possibility it could be staged on Cork harbour in southern Ireland or at a series of venues in Spain. Jeddah remains an outsider.
And when will it be?
TNZ and INEOS Britannia are both committed to the next Cup being staged in 2024 but the current delay in selecting a venue could yet see that slip back, although Ainslie was clear he is still planning on 2024.
What is the significance of INEOS Britannia being Challenger of Record?
In fact the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes is the Challenger of Record (CoR) for the next Cup and INEOS Britannia will represent them on the race track. Being CoR means the British team is in a unique position of being able to negotiate with TNZ on the rules of the next Cup and the structure of the challenger selection series. While being CoR makes it virtually certain that the British team will take part in the next challenger selecting series, it does not guarantee the team a place in the next Cup match. In fact CoR teams have typically performed badly and have yet to reach a Cup match in an event featuring multiple challengers.
How is the Cup structured?
With multiple challengers, it starts with a series of knock-out races between the challengers, racing one on one. Gradually the fastest team will emerge. They will then go forward to the Cup match against the holders — in this case TNZ — who take no part in the challenger elimination rounds.
Apart from INEOS Britannia who else might contest the Cup next time round?
Right now there look to be up to four other teams ready to enter the fray. They are the Italian Luna Rossa team that beat Ainslie’s outfit in the Prada Cup final (challenger selection series final) in Auckland in February; Alinghi — the Swiss former Cup winners owned by pharmaceutical billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli; and two US-based teams — American Magic that contested the last Cup in Auckland and spectacularly capsized, and Stars & Stripes — a new syndicate associated with the New York Yacht Club.
Why is the chief designer role so important in the America’s Cup?
The fastest boat always wins the Cup. The boats are built to a design rule that stipulates certain parameters of the hulls and rigs, but also allows for interpretation by naval architects of other key dimensions. It means that no two Cup boats are the same and some will be faster than others in various conditions. The conundrum of trying to come up with the fastest boat has tested the finest brains in sailing for 170 years and the current AC75 foiling class is probably the most challenging design rule the event has seen.