|Ben Ainslie: #BringTheCupHome
by Mark Chisnell
The apron in front of the building in Portsmouth – normally the area where the boat and wing are prepared for launch – is covered with containers. The crane lifts a boat out of the water for the last time and when I go into Ben’s office, there’s no longer anywhere to sit down. The sofas and coffee table are on their way to Bermuda.
The first shipment to Bermuda left in July, the second went in November, with the team to commence operations in Bermuda in December. The America’s Cup Class race boat is to be launched in early 2017.
The team has come a long way in just three years; all that existed of Ben Ainslie Racing at the end of the 34th America’s Cup in 2013 was Ben, his long-term commercial and business manager Jo Grindley and a commitment of support from Sir Charles Dunstone and Sir Keith Mills. A few months later there was a handful of people in an office in Whiteley, then a temporary sailing base in Southampton Docks and an AC45 – ‘T1’ – that was converted to foiling.
It was followed by the opening of the purpose built waterfront building in Old Portsmouth, certified as BREEAM Excellent (an internationally recognised achievement in sustainable architecture), which subsequently won eight awards including the RICS National Award of Commercial Project of The Year.
Three more test boats followed ‘T1’ into the water, the most recent being T3 and T4, both sailing on the Solent since the spring of this year. The team has initiated the launch of their own official charity, the 1851 Trust, to encourage young people from a wide demographic to experience sailing and provide opportunities for them in the sport, particularly through the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths. The team also has its own youth academy, the Land Rover BAR Academy, currently competing on the Extreme Sailing Series circuit.
And then there are the racing results. It’s been an extraordinary two years, with consistency the key. In nine events of the World Series, the team have only been off the podium twice, recording four event wins (Portsmouth x 2, Oman and Fukuoka), bolstered by a second (Chicago) and two third places (Gothenburg and Toulon). The team’s overall World Series win means they will take two vital bonus points into the next round of the competition, the America’s Cup Qualifiers, starting May 26, 2017 in Bermuda.
With all that has been accomplished in three years – how was Ben Ainslie feeling about it as he readied himself for the transition to Bermuda, and the home straight of the 35th America’s Cup?