Ainslie launches America's Cup challenge
LONDON (AP) Four-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie is trying to raise 80 million pounds ($135 million) and secure help from the Formula One racing world in a bid to bring the America's Cup trophy to Britain in 2017.
The America's Cup is named after the yacht America, which won the inaugural trophy off the Isle of Wight in 1851. It has never been won by a British entry.
Ainslie won the regatta last year as a crew member of Oracle Team USA, which defended its title in a stunning comeback to beat Emirates Team New Zealand.
''Winning that event in San Francisco with a good group of guys was way more powerful than anything I had done as an individual,'' Ainslie said Tuesday. ''But standing there on the podium lifting the America's Cup, it did cross my mind that it would be much more fulfilling with a British team, and so that is the goal.''
Ainslie, knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2012, launched his project at a ceremony in London attended by the Duchess of Cambridge, a keen sailor herself.
''It is never easy, but it is about bringing together the right people who have built successful corporations, designed successful America's Cup boats, sailed on winning boats, brought the Olympics to Britain, and we have those people,'' the 37-year-old Ainslie said.
The new team - Ben Ainslie Racing - is backed by Charles Dunstone, the chairman and co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, and Keith Mills, the deputy chairman of the organizing committee of the 2012 London Olympics.
Both men have been in contact with different British F1 teams to get them involved in the project. Ainslie confirmed that Red Bull F1 team design chief Adrian Newey could help with the boat's aerodynamics and technologies.
''He is the most successful Formula One designer in history and is keen on sailing the America's Cup,'' Ainslie said. ''He has a lot of commitment still with Formula 1 and it really just depends how he could perhaps fits something in to be involved with the team. It would be a huge asset for us if he can find time.''
Ainslie said his team has already secured about 40 percent of the 80 million pound ($135 million) funding and is hopeful the support of the Duchess of Cambridge will attract more sponsors.
The protocol for the 35th America's Cup was released last week, with the new rules published even though organizers haven't decided the main venue. It's expected that the early qualifying rounds will be held in a different venue than the challenger semifinals and finals, and America's Cup match.
The defender will be allowed to sail against challengers in the elimination series and can build two 62-foot, wing-sailed foiling catamarans while challengers will be limited to one.
An America's Cup World Series in 45-foot catamarans in 2015 and 2016 will be used to seed the America's Cup Qualifiers, a double-round robin event. The winner of the qualifiers - whether it's Oracle or a challenger - will get a bonus point in the America's Cup match.
The top four challengers will race in the America's Cup Playoffs - the semifinals and finals - with the winner facing Oracle in the match.
Ainslie said the prospective venues for the next regatta, which include San Diego, Bermuda and Chicago, are all commercially very attractive for potential sponsors but admitted there have been some sporting ''issues'' with the protocol they are trying to resolve with Oracle.
Ainslie said having two boats is ''technically an advantage to Oracle'' but added that the competition's new rules are ''commercially focused, which is a good thing for the future.''
Ainslie plans to set up his base in Portsmouth but is still waiting for his proposals to be granted planning permission.
''The British public have become captivated by the America's Cup, we have got the world's greatest sailor and a very exciting format,'' Dunstone said. ''If this is ever going to happen, it is going to happen now.''
Follow Samuel Petrequin on Twitter: http://twitter.com/sampetrequin