A paywall? Here you go:I can't read the article but he's certainly motivated and has significant resources to mount a serious challenge. And he has assembled a stable of highly talented sports people across multiple disciplines beyond sailing. That will make the approach taken interesting and probably different from previous challengers.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe on continuing America's Cup quest and chance of a 'magical' one-off UK match
Exclusive: The Auld Mug evaded Ineos Team UK this year, but the British billionaire is committed to 'bringing it home' with Ben Ainslie
By Tom Cary, Senior Sports Correspondent 24 March 2021 • 7:41am
It appears that sirs Jim Ratcliffe and Ben Ainslie will team up again in the hope of claiming the America's Cup Credit: Lloyd Images /Getty Images Europe
In the end that famous ‘£110 million gin and tonic’, the drink over which Sir Jim Ratcliffe looked into Sir Ben Ainslie’s eyes and agreed to back to his America's Cup team, did not yield the Auld Mug. But nor, apparently, did it leave a bitter aftertaste. “It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience,” says Ratcliffe, reflecting on three months in New Zealand watching Ainslie’s team trying but failing to become the first British winners of sport’s oldest international trophy. “We’ve had a great time.”
So great, in fact, the journey is continuing. Ratcliffe, the founder and co-owner of petrochemicals giant Ineos and Britain’s richest man with a personal wealth estimated at some £17 billion, has now agreed to underwrite Ainslie’s next America’s Cup campaign, too. More than that, Ratcliffe and his advisors have been influential in helping to secure ‘Challenger of Record’ status for Ineos Team UK, a status that bestows certain privileges upon the challenging yacht club and should in theory help Britain’s chances of ending 170 years of hurt.
Ineos and Cup holders Team New Zealand, who accepted the British challenge after wrapping up a 7-3 victory over previous challenger of record (CoR) Luna Rossa in the 36th match last week, have already made a few announcements regarding their intentions for the next Cup. These include continuing with the current 75-foot foiling monohulls for at least two more cycles as well as various cost-cutting measures designed to attract new blood (Ratcliffe says he would "hope to knock a third off" what he's spending).
But what has really got everyone talking in America’s Cup land, and what I want to discuss with Ratcliffe, are the rumours of a special, one-off match between New Zealand and Britain in the Isle of Wight next year.
Is the America’s Cup coming home? Ratcliffe says he is unsure. “I’d love to see it happen,” he admits, speaking from his temporary offices in Auckland to which he has relocated with some 30 Ineos staff and their partners. “I think it would be quite magical to have it in the UK after all this time, particularly after Covid. It would be a big thing for the UK, I think. But ultimately it’s up to the Kiwis.”
The idea, if it is signed off, would see the defenders and the CoR face off in a special series at the midway point between now and the next ‘full’ America’s Cup in 2024, which will almost certainly be back in Auckland. It would likely be controversial, excluding as it does any other challengers. While there are many in New Zealand would prefer not to see the Cup risked in a series abroad. But Ratcliffe is hopeful the idea will gain traction, insisting it would be in everyone’s interests.
“The fact is,” he says, “New Zealand are a commercially-funded team. Grant Dalton, their boss, does not have an Ineos behind him. This event, if it happens, would be a platform, which might help them raise funding to keep that team together.”
Ratcliffe says he would not fund the event himself. “Absolutely not,” he says. “I want to be clear about that. Because that would be sort of like buying the Cup into the UK and I don't think that's appropriate.”
Team Ineos UK lost out to Italian Luna Rossa in the Prada Cup Credit: Getty Images AsiaPac /Phil Walter
As defenders and event organisers, though, Dalton would be able to negotiate with commercial partners and local government, charge a hosting fee, deal with broadcasters and so on. Ratcliffe even suggests the UK Government might be keen to support a prestigious global sporting event in that neck of the woods. “There have been many instances where governments have put some money down to attract the Cup to the country because it's good for regeneration,” he says. “I mean, the Isle of Wight and that part of the south coast is not in a great state, so it would bring a bit of a rejuvenation to that area. Why not?
“I honestly think it would be a great success. You have to remember, due to Covid last year, which forced the cancellation of two planned events [in Cagliari and Portsmouth] nobody in the northern hemisphere has yet seen these boats in action live. They are absolutely incredible, believe me. I think people would be blown away, sailors and non-sailors alike.
“I think if there was effectively a duel between ourselves and the world’s dominant sailing force… I mean, the Kiwis are to sailing what the All Blacks are to rugby really… to take on the best in the world, on our home waters, 171 years after the America’s Cup was first raced there, would be quite something.”
Ratcliffe admits they might get “a bit of flak” from other syndicates. But he points out that no one else would really be ready to contest another Cup so soon anyway. And as far as the 2024 event is concerned, nothing would change with Ineos happy to return to Auckland – if that was what New Zealand wanted – regardless of whether they won or lost in Cowes. The idea is more that it would be "a bridge" to the next Cup.
“I mean, it’s a bit quirky,” he admits. “But the Cup has always been a bit quirky. It wouldn’t be the first time there had been a duel. The first 100 years were typically duels. And we do genuinely want to level the playing field up, to reduce costs, to make it fairer on other entrants. Nothing would change as far as that's concerned. I’m on record as saying I’d be keen to look at an independent governing body, to make it as fair as possible, although I accept I’m new to this and others with far more history in the Cup enjoy its quirkiness and history.”
Ratcliffe says a decision will need to be made soon, with not much time for Ineos build a new race boat if the 2022 event does happen ("I don't know whether the Kiwis would build a new boat, because they had a pretty good package this time," he muses. "The best hull, the best foils, the best rig. But we didn’t so we’d need to. We need to take quite a giant step forward.") But either way, he admits he has been smitten – by the Cup, by New Zealand, and by its inhabitants.
Ratcliffe has spent much of the last three months aboard his superyacht Sherpa, working and touring the country. They managed a complete circumnavigation of the South Island at one point and Ratcliffe was left distinctly impressed. He tells a story about a dinner in a pub on Stewart Island when everyone came up and chatted during the evening. One group of campers even offered to swap their tents for Ratcliffe's yacht for the night. “It was bloody wet and raining," Ratcliffe recalls. "They said 'Look you're obviously getting fed up on that boat...' I’ve been pretty universally impressed by everything I’ve seen here; unfailingly cheerful, chatty, welcoming. But also, they don't have a chip on their shoulder about anything as far as I can see. There's no sense of envy here. I don't get any **** here because I’ve got a boat.”