Maybe nice guys can’t win America’s Cup

Published on November 18th, 2021

It is hard to imagine Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful sailor in Olympic history, an A-lister at social gatherings and elbow-rubber with royalty, losing the love of Great Britain. Good looking, well-spoken, and in hot pursuit to bring the America’s Cup home, he does seem to be losing traction at home.

A glimpse of Ainslie’s’ fiery side was seen at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships when he jumped out of his Finn and boarded a media boat to confront the crew before swimming back to his boat and sailing away. He was disqualified from the final races, and was nearly banned from the sport prior to the London 2012 Olympics.

After helping the USA win the 2013 America’s Cup, he launched a campaign for his country, embracing an environmental and educational platform in support of sponsors and the crown. However, it was a new team, and it made new team mistakes, failing to develop a boat capable of winning the 2017 America’s Cup.

Ainslie was ready to put the lessons to good use, but needed a bigger war chest. A chance meeting in Bermuda with Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the second richest British billionaire courtesy of his chemical company, launched a new partnership. The sailor exchanged his righteous sponsors for Ratcliffe’s INEOS, a company that’s no friend of the environment, in pursuit of the 2021 America’s Cup.

In 2015, Ainslie had set up his operations in Portsmouth, a port city on England’s south coast. The government had committed significant taxpayer money to assist the development of the team headquarters, relocating businesses to make space for the team’s buildings and facilities.

It was deemed “a fantastic investment” by politicians, but with the results from 2021 falling short again, Ainslie and Ratcliffe are upping the effort, and that has the locals in Portsmouth screaming foul as the team is leaving the city.

Ainslie’s INEOS Britannia is now based nearly 100 miles to the north in Brackley with Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 as Ratcliffe owns a third of the F1 team and is leveraging that asset to win the Auld Mug. However, the announcement of the move has solicited a strong reaction from a local media Facebook post about the team’s departure:

Leslie Harris: “I don’t think he ever intended to stay long, that building is an eyesore.”

Tina Pink: “Another waste of tax payer’s money, should be made to pay it back!”

Rob Watkins: “Hopefully he’s taking the monstrosity of a building away with him that’s destroyed residents views!”

Other readers have added what they think should be done with the building now it is no longer being used by the team.

Rob Emery: “Knock it down and erect buildings more in keeping with the area, or use it to house the Royal Marine and other maritime museums.”

Paul Henty: “He has used the city, so if he has left who does the building belong to and whose money built it? He should definitely not profit from it, if it reverts back to the council it should be used for youth club/outward bound groups.”

Paul Threadingham: “What a waste of money which could have been spent on other areas in Portsmouth for the people of Portsmouth, not a bunch of spoilt rich boys.”

No venue has yet been set for the America’s Cup and Sir Ben is now being forced to pay £110,000-a-year rent for The Camber after pulling the sailing team from the base in June this year.

The rent is now due as a clause in the contract brings to an end the rent-free period if the building is not being mainly used for the America’s Cup.

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