Sir Ben Ainslie has announced that his America’s Cup team, INEOS Team UK, will take over the Great Britain SailGP team.
Speaking to Tom Cary in the Daily Telegraph, Ainslie confirmed that INEOS Team UK have entered into a one-year agreement with the SailGP league, run by billionaire Larry Ellison and headed-up by Sir Russell Coutts.
And said that they have agreed a deal to take over Britain’s team in SailGP, with Ainslie himself helming the boat in 2020 and that he hopes the intial period will be extended.
INEOS boss Jim Ratcliffe’s already owns the Swiss football club FC Lausanne-Sport, cycling’s Team Sky and the OGC Nice football team, as well as Ainslie’s America’s Cup team.
Ainslie is to formally announce the deal at a press conference on Tuesday at the OXO Tower in London.
The dramatic move is seen as an opportunity to take part in high speed, foiling racing against the two top Australian helms, former America’s Cup winner Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge, who have dominated the 2019 SailGP series.
The British SailGP team finished fourth from six teams taking part.
Ainslie expects to compete in all five SailGP events scheduled for 2020, if they do not conflict with the America’s Cup preliminary events set for end of April in Sardinia and possibly June in Portsmouth, UK.
INEOS Team UK co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe is reported to have agreed this was the right move, and will be underwriting the estimated £5+ million necessary to run the team per season.
One of the problems with the extended build and test programme for the 2021 America’s Cup is the lack of actual racing practice.
Ineos Team UK is in the process of re-locating to Cagliari in Sardinia, venue for the first racing in April, to practice and refine their first AC75, but are not allowed to sail against any other of the AC36 race teams.
Ainslie sees the highly competitive SailGP series, sailed in ex America’s Cup foiling multihulls, as providing the chance to hone his high speed helming skills and build the crew interaction.
Recently the SailGP league organisation has stressed that the teams have to become independent of the intial seed-money supplied by Ellison, and that if they did not gain at least some sponsorship by the end of the second season, they could be dropped.
The new crew format has not been clarified, but Chris Draper will continue to run the SailGP team.
The present helm and the flight controller, Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell, are in New Zealand racing in the 49er World Championships. They have already been confirmed as representing Britain at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in that class event.
Another new SailGP team, either from Denmark or Switzerland, is to be announced shortly and possibly another venue.