By Alexander Smith
PORTSMOUTH, England (Reuters) – When Ben Ainslie is not out sailing with his crew, he is busy inside Land Rover BAR’s futuristic headquarters raising the money he needs to make his America’s Cup dream a reality.
Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor and a winner of the “Auld Mug” with Oracle Team USA in 2013, is racing to secure at least 100 million pounds ($141 million) needed to design, construct and race the latest version of America’s Cup boat.
“We are on that funding trail right now … Land Rover have been fantastic as title partner and some of the other partners are coming back in, but we still need to raise a significant amount of money,” he told Reuters.
In addition to commercial sponsors, Ainslie has been backed by high-profile private backers in his attempt to win the America’s Cup for Britain for the first time since it was first raced for off the south coast of England in 1851.
Defending champions Emirates Team New Zealand are due to release the “Class Rule” for international sport’s oldest trophy by the end of March, determining the precise specifications for the 75 foot craft, which Ainslie expects to start building in the autumn.
“We have a reasonably good understanding of what is in it. I think it is going to be very exciting, it is going to be a really big technical challenge for the designers and the whole team,” Ainslie said in his high-tech office in Portsmouth.
What is known is that unlike the futuristic foiling catamarans used in Bermuda last year, the 36th America’s Cup in 2021 will involve untested 75-foot monohulls which will also lift out of the water and potentially “fly” even faster.
“We are working on a test boat, a scaled down version. We are working on it, that’s all I can say … the designers are working really hard on the concept, the key areas, what’s going to give us the best speed,” Ainslie said.
After their unsuccessful campaign to bring the Cup home in Bermuda, Ainslie’s sailors are also getting time in a monohull by teaming up with British businessman Tony Langley’s Gladiator crew to campaign in the high-octane TP52 “Super-Series”.
“Tony (Langley) has been really generous with providing the boat and getting the guys on there. At the end of the day its his campaign, his boat and his team and he’s supporting us through that,” the 41-year-old Ainslie added.
Crew members including British Finn Olympic gold medalist Giles Scott have already begun racing as “Land Rover BAR Gladiator” with Langley helming the TP52.
“The key is fundamentally to get the sailing team on the water and working together. The TP52 is the most competitive monohull circuit out there,” Ainslie said, adding he sees scope for testing and refining both coaching and analytical tools.
Although the potential gains and pitfalls of designing the new craft are “massive” and the costs prohibitive to purely commercially-funded teams, Ainslie expects a similar number of crews to compete in Auckland as took part in Bermuda.
France, the United States, Britain, Sweden, New Zealand and Japan were all represented in 2017 and Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge and New York Yacht Club American Magic have already said they will be taking on holders New Zealand.
Ainslie expects each team’s design to be significantly different, which will make the event more interesting from a sailing purist’s perspective and ensure a “big challenge” for the sailors learning to handle the boats.
“For sure in this new concept there will be something we don’t know right now that will become a really key factor in this next Cup,” he said.
“One of the key deals is working that out early on making sure you are up to speed on that area.”
($1 = 0.7095 pounds)
(Editing by Ed Osmond)