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
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.