We are one step closer to bring­ing Amer­ica’s Cup home

A his­toric name but a very mod­ern en­try for the Amer­ica’s Cup, and it starts in earnest now

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - Sir Ben Ainslie ex­clu­sive

It was an in­cred­i­bly spe­cial day for the team yes­ter­day. Al­most ex­actly two years af­ter Team New Zealand an­nounced that the 36th Amer­ica’s Cup would re­turn to mono­hulls, and 18 months af­ter they an­nounced the full AC75 class rule, we launched our first race boat.

I am bi­ased of course but I think Bri­tan­nia – the name cho­sen by In­eos Team UK owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe in homage to the iconic rac­ing cut­ter yacht of that name

– is a won­der­ful ac­knowl­edge­ment of our mar­itime his­tory. The orig­i­nal Bri­tan­nia was built in 1893 for King Ed­ward VII, then the Prince of Wales, and en­joyed a long and dis­tin­guished rac­ing ca­reer, com­pet­ing with and against many Amer­ica’s Cup boats of that era, in­clud­ing Sir Thomas Lip­ton’s first Amer­ica’s Cup chal­lenger, Sham­rock.

Bri­tan­nia fin­ished with 231 race wins and 129 fur­ther podi­ums, mak­ing it the dom­i­nant rac­ing yacht of the time. Af­ter King Ge­orge V’s death in 1936, ac­cord­ing to his wishes, Bri­tan­nia was scut­tled by the Royal Navy off the Isle of Wight; in the same waters that the first Amer­ica’s Cup was raced in back in 1851.

It would be won­der­ful if this

Bri­tan­nia could bring sail­ing’s great­est tro­phy back to those same waters.

Yes­ter­day’s launch­ing cer­e­mony was lovely. Jim’s daugh­ter, Ju­lia, of­fi­cially chris­tened Bri­tan­nia, and it was spe­cial to have the fam­ily con­nec­tion. Ju­lia is only 11 but she is a se­ri­ously im­pres­sive young lady. We took her for a sail in a foil­ing boat last year and tried to im­press her. But, as she does ski jump­ing in her spare time, I am not sure it was the adrenalin hit she was hop­ing for!

Cre­at­ing adrenalin should not be a prob­lem for Bri­tan­nia. These boats are se­ri­ously, se­ri­ously fast, ca­pa­ble of break­ing the 50-knot bar­rier in the right con­di­tions. I can­not wait to put it through its paces.

Since the teams took de­liv­ery of the sup­plied foil arms a cou­ple of months ago, it has been a bit of a race to launch. Ev­ery­one wants as much time on the wa­ter as pos­si­ble. In the end, the Amer­i­cans and the Ki­wis just got in there first, launch­ing very close to­gether a cou­ple of weeks ago, with the Ital­ians launch­ing on Wed­nes­day.

Of course, we would have liked to have been on the wa­ter a few weeks ago, too, but the ben­e­fit of be­ing just be­hind the oth­ers has been the op­por­tu­nity to fully ob­serve their boats and how they op­er­ate them.

The first thing to say, purely from the point of view of a sail­ing fan, is that these boats are so, so im­pres­sive. Watch­ing them up close, you can­not help but be blown away. For a start, they are huge – 75 feet – and they are in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful.

In­ter­est­ingly, of the four boats launched, they are all quite dif­fer­ent in de­sign phi­los­o­phy.

The Kiwi and Ital­ian boats are sleeker than both the Amer­i­cans and our­selves and both hulls sport a bulge or blis­ter in the keel line (if this class of boat had a tra­di­tional keel, which it does not) in search of both aero­dy­namic and hy­dro­dy­namic gains at cer­tain points of sail­ing.

The other big take­away is the ap­proach to the foil de­sign with rel­a­tively big dif­fer­ences in ge­om­e­try. This Amer­ica’s Cup will be a fas­ci­nat­ing de­vel­op­ment race all the way to the fi­nal.

This is now a key phase in the build-up to the 36th Amer­ica’s Cup, which will take place in Auck­land in 2021. That might sound a long way away but it is go­ing to come around in no time. It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that the next few months could de­cide the out­come of the Cup.

De­sign de­ci­sions need to be taken for boat two, which will most likely be the boat used to race the Cup, and those de­ci­sions will be very much based on what we see out on the wa­ter in the next few months, both from our own ex­pe­ri­ences and how we see the op­po­si­tion per­form­ing.

Bri­tan­nia is the cul­mi­na­tion of over 50,000 con­struc­tion hours and 90,000 de­sign hours. It has been a mas­sive job from boat builders Ja­son Car­ring­ton, from our de­sign team, our shore team, our en­gi­neers. All of them have been flat out for the past 18 months.

It is a mas­sive team ef­fort and the toll that takes on fam­i­lies and lives is not for­got­ten. One of our key en­gi­neers was work­ing so hard that he man­aged to for­get his son’s birth­day, which is not re­ally that amus­ing but is a sign of the in­tense pres­sure the team are un­der.

The sail­ing op­er­a­tions clearly start to ramp up now. We will be in Cagliari from late De­cem­ber/early Jan­uary as we build up to the first World Series event there at the end of April. We are hope­ful there will be a Portsmouth event in June. Then there will be one in Auck­land to­wards the end of next year, as we build up to the main event in March 2021.

It is in­cred­i­ble to think how far we have come as a team in the past two years. When I first met Jim two years ago, it was just us and his foot­ball team in Lau­sanne. Now In­eos has bought the cy­cling team, Nice foot­ball club and it is back­ing Eliud Kip­choge’s 1-59 chal­lenge in a cou­ple of weeks. We are proud to be a part of this big sport­ing fam­ily but we know we have to fo­cus on our own goal of de­liv­er­ing the Amer­ica’s Cup to home waters.

Ready to go: Bri­tan­nia is low­ered into the wa­ter dur­ing its launch in Portsmouth

Top team: Sir Jim Ratcliffe (left), his daugh­ter Ju­lia and Sir Ben Ainslie.

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