Sir Ben Ainslie: Why I’m looking forward to the 2021 America’s Cup

22 March 2018 • Written by Ben Ainslie

It’s a little over 10 months since we made it through to the semi-finals of the 35th America’s Cup. We got knocked out by the eventual winners, Emirates Team New Zealand, by five races to two, and immediately announced that — with support already confirmed from Land Rover and 11th Hour Racing — we would continue and challenge for the next America’s Cup.

We had a lot to review once we returned to the UK; as a new team, we were playing catch up all the way through the campaign. Looking back, it was clear that we had done a great job maturing the organisation, particularly commercially, but technically we got ahead of ourselves a bit. We started off with a good plan, but we failed to focus enough on the key performance differentiators.

We’ve now got Grant Simmer (pictured below) in as CEO. I have always wanted him to be involved and he was very close to joining when we started the team in 2014. He has won the America’s Cup four times and been involved in every aspect of an America’s Cup team. Grant and I have a very strong relationship, which will be key to creating a winning team.

New CEO Grant Simmer (pictured right) will work closely with Ainslie on the 2021 campaign. All photography courtesy of Harry KH

Recently, we further strengthened the technical team with the appointment of Nick Holroyd as chief designer, a role he formerly held at Team New Zealand and Softbank Team Japan. It’s fantastic he’s agreed to join us. We’ve also signed Harold Youngren and Len Imas, two of the very best fluid dynamics engineers in the business; both were with Team New Zealand for the 34th Cup and Oracle for the 35th.

At the same time as all this was going on, we were also waiting. Emirates Team New Zealand was the only team in the competition that had not signed the framework agreement that outlined the protocol and format of the 36th America’s Cup. So we were back to the old Cup tradition of waiting for them to negotiate with the Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa.

The major change that hit the headlines was the return to monohulls. Then a few weeks later we got the initial concept drawings for the boat, and we saw that this was not monohull racing as we knew it. We’re going to be foiling again and, in the right conditions, this boat will be as quick as or quicker than the AC50s raced in the last Cup.

Ainslie's team will be racing in the 52 Super Series this spring

The big thing about it is the potential cost and the potential for some pretty massive wipe-outs. The budget to design, build and race the new class could be huge if we are not all careful.

There are two key areas in the commercial regulations where we need to have more information and better understanding. We’ve got a good relationship with the defender, Emirates Team New Zealand. Like us, they don’t have a wealthy individual behind them paying all the bills. So we hope they will see things the same way as us. Hopefully by Easter we can say: “Right, this is the structure, the team, the budget, the strategy. We’re off.”

Our team will be in action this year aboard Tony Langley’s TP52 Gladiator (pictured above). It will be a good opportunity for us to get the team out racing, to retain some of our core sailing team and try out new people.

We’ve also begun working on our first test boat, acquiring a hull that we think is appropriate, and we will refit that with foils and systems to start learning about how this new class of boat will work. There’s an immense amount to learn, but we are ready to hit the water foiling.

First published in the April 2018 edition of Boat International.

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