The First Sea Lord has just presented us with an unexploded artillery round. It was found on the building site during the construction of our base in Portsmouth – the Navy’s bomb squad came and disarmed it and subsequently cleaned it up. It now has pride of place in our reception.
It was a privilege to welcome Admiral Sir George Zambellas, the impressively titled First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, to Ben Ainslie Racing. He’s a charming guy who studied aeronautical and astronautical engineering at the University of Southampton alongside Adrian Newey, the British Formula One engineer. So he had some interesting ideas about foil section shapes, which I know he enjoyed sharing with our chief technology officer, Andy Claughton.
It was a welcome highlight of our homecoming, after the racing season finale at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event in Bermuda. But first our journey home was diverted to San Francisco, where one of our partners, 11th Hour Racing, invited us to the annual Connect event – a get-together for the Schmidt Family Foundation’s charities.
The foundation’s projects cover a whole range of environmental good causes. There was work by the LBNL Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies on portable refrigeration solutions for vaccinations using solar energy. Another project is providing support for 20 solar start-ups and 200 entrepreneurs – and they have already installed 500MW of energy production capacity.
Even more relevant to us whose job is out on the water was the foundation’s work on ocean conservation, particularly identifying the main sources of the plastic rubbish that ends up in the ocean. Learning about the causes and potential solutions was interesting, and it all linked in to our own team’s goal of no single-use plastics.
We can do a lot more to be sustainable within our team, and we have some great ideas to follow up on. We must improve our own practices, and I think we have worked very hard on those from day one, but we can also spread the word to our peer group in the America’s Cup family and the wider sailing community, to try to encourage everyone to take better care of the ocean.
Our own big event this month was connected to our sustainability goals, with the publication of an economic impact report for the team’s first year of operation. It was put together by our partners KPMG. Our primary goal has always been to bring the America’s Cup home. But at the same time we have set ourselves the goal of building a sustainable, diversified business, bringing technology, innovation and high-quality jobs to the UK – just like Formula One’s Motorsport Valley has done.
KPMG’s report showed that so far we have produced a £47m economic impact for the UK, £59m in media value and the equivalent of 730 full-time jobs across the country. I think these figures show our fantastic potential.
I’ve had some entertaining times, too. I was a guest of our partner Land Rover at the Rugby World Cup final. There was an awesome atmosphere at Twickenham, where I witnessed the impressive All Blacks in full flow. They were just a little bit better in every area than the Aussies and they deserved to win. As a competitor in another discipline, it was motivating to witness a team like that, who have focused on each area of the game, isolated it and worked on it to perfection. It’s a great target for any sports team to try to operate at that level. But now it’s back to the real world and a tough winter of testing on the Solent.