Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) was established by Great Britain sailing legend Sir Ben Ainslie in June 2014 with the ambitious aim of winning for Britain the 35th America’s Cup.

Sir Ben was instrumental in winning the 34th America’s Cup for Team Oracle as tactician, which success has inspired him to challenge for the AC on behalf of GB. In June 2015 Land Rover joined Sir Ben as main sponsor, alongside a number of private investors and other commercial sponsors, and the team was renamed Land Rover BAR.

The team’s ultra modern, purpose built HQ, boat development centre and training facility are based in Portsmouth Harbour, next to Gunwharf Quays and the unmistakable Spinnaker Tower, and just across the water from Boatshed HQ. Those of us who work at, or regularly visit HQ have witnessed Sir Ben’s new facility and team emerge magnificently from a derelict waterfront site to now be a familiar part of the Portsmouth sailing landscape.

As Sir Ben described the team’s facility in Portsmouth:

“Portsmouth has a great maritime heritage and we felt it was a natural home for the team’s permanent base in the UK. There is excellent access to the water for the team’s training and to host future America’s Cup events, with fantastic spectator viewpoints. We hope through our journey to bring the Cup home to Britain we will inspire more young people to get involved in the sport, along with supporting the growth of the marine sector in the Solent area to match the country’s F1 innovation hub.”

At Boatshed we couldn’t agree with that more! Boats, racing, innovation and success are in our blood just as they are in Sir Ben’s so we thought we would recap the America’s Cup story and introduce Land Rover BAR’s team in honour and support of our famous neighbour.

The America’s Cup is the oldest international trophy event in sport. The first race, organised by the Royal Yacht Squadron, took place in 1851 (before even President Lincoln and the American Civil War). Britain has never won the America’s Cup!

That first event was a race around the Isle of Wight. The schooner ‘America’ won and thereafter the trophy was named the America’s Cup and the event was organised as a challenge cup open to sailing clubs of all nations.

For 132 years American teams racing for the New York Yacht Club defeated all challengers until, finally, an Australian team won in 1983. Today the AC is a global contest, involving highly professional sailing and design teams from across the planet, including many of the best sailors in the world. It has become a major global event, arguably the pinnacle of yacht racing, comparable to F1 motorsport.

An oddity of the AC is that the rules are ever changing. With only a few limitations, the holders of the Cup have the right to set the rules for the next challenge and decide the location. Team Oracle, the current champions, have decided that the 35th AC will be in 2017, raced in 48 foot foiling multi-hulls and will be in Bermuda. If Land Rover BAR win in 2017, Sir Ben has already made it clear that the 36th AC will be held in Britain - right outside Boatshed HQ’s window!

So, who are the sailors?

Well, everyone in sailing knows Sir Ben Ainslie, the winner of 4 consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games, an 11 times World Champion and a winner of the 35th America’s Cup with Team Oracle USA - which team came back from almost oblivion to win the final event 9-8 against Emirates Team New Zealand in an unforgettable sporting turn-around in which Sir Ben played a key (probably ‘the’ key) role!

Alongside Sir Ben are some other outstanding sailors, including: Paul Campbell-Jones (Extreme Sailing Series Champion), Freddie Carr (a TP52 World Champion); Matt Cornwell (a previous AC competitor); Nick Hutton (World and European Swan Champion); Jono Macbeth from New Zealand (a three times AC winner); Andrew McLean (AC and Volvo Ocean Race competitor); Leigh McMillan (an Extreme 40 sailor from the Isle of Wight); and Giles Scott (a Finn Olympic sailor and World Champion, following in the footsteps of Ben Ainslie).

There are a series of preliminary and qualifying events leading up to the America’s Cup and Land Rover BAR are currently lying in a very respectable 3rd place overall. 2017 will be the key year for Ben Ainslie and his team though, and here at Boatshed we shall be cheering them on!

For more information about the America’s Cup please visit: www.americascup.com