SAN DIEGO (AP) — A large infusion of cash will give Britain its best chance ever to reclaim the America’s Cup, which it lost in 1851 and hasn’t come close to winning back.
The America’s Cup team headed by Sir Ben Ainslie has been rebranded INEOS Team GB with a commitment of $153 million (110 million pounds) from the petrochemical company based in London.
The announcement Thursday marks a radical shift for the team, which had been known as Land Rover BAR, with the BAR standing for Ben Ainslie Racing. INEOS is buying out the old sponsors.
INEOS Team GB is launching a challenge for the 2021 America’s Cup and teaming with Ainslie, who will lead the design and build program as well as skipper the yacht.
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INEOS said it is making the biggest-ever investment in a British America’s Cup team.
That’s what it will take to win back the silver trophy, which the schooner America won by beating a fleet of British boats around the Isle of Wight 167 years ago.
“This is an amazing boost for British sport,” Ainslie said. “With this significant commitment from INEOS to fully fund a two-boat challenge, Britain now has its best opportunity to bring the America’s Cup back home to Britain where it belongs.”
Jim Ratcliffe, founder and chairman of INEOS, echoed Ainslie and added: “INEOS has taken on many serious projects in the past but none more exciting than this.
“The America’s Cup is one of the world’s most competitive yacht races and Britain has never won it, despite founding the competition over 150 years ago,” Ratcliffe said. “With the team we have assembled, we believe we can get a fully competitive boat to the start line. After that it’s all down to the fine art of sailing. Ben is arguably the best sailor that Britain has ever produced so we should have a fighting chance of success.”
Ainslie is one of the world’s most successful sailors. He is the most decorated Olympic sailor ever, having won four straight gold medals and a silver. He helped Oracle Team USA stage a stunning comeback to beat Emirates Team New Zealand and win the America’s Cup in 2013.
He then started Land Rover BAR. The British squad had a bit of a rough go in the challenger trials in Bermuda in June, losing in the semifinals to Emirates Team New Zealand. The Kiwis went on to win the challenger finals and then upset Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup match.
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson