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June 1 (Reuters) - Ben Ainslie is the only America’s Cup skipper with his name emblazoned on one of the six space-age foiling catamarans flying around Bermuda’s Great Sound this month.
The BAR in Land Rover BAR stands for Ben Ainslie Racing and is testament to the single-handed determination sailing’s most successful Olympian has shown in his quest to bring the oldest trophy in international sport “home” to Britain.
For Ainslie, 40, who says he dreamt of winning the America’s Cup when he was learning to sail as a child, lifting the “Auld Mug” in San Francisco in 2013 as a key member of the Oracle Team USA crew was not enough.
So, under the banner “Bring The Cup Home”, Ainslie set about mounting his own challenge and just three years ago launched BAR with the aim of doing something British teams have tried and failed to do on some 20 occasions.
But to get an America’s Cup boat on the water, let alone compete with the likes of Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing, costs tens of millions of dollars.
Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing are respectively backed by billionaires Larry Ellison and Sweden’s Torbjorn Tornqvist and have been in the game for years.
Not only has Ainslie managed to raise 90 million pounds ($116 million) to fund his campaign, he has also built a massive team headquarters in Portsmouth on the south coast of England, looking out over the Solent where in 1851 the schooner “America” beat the British to win the cup which is named after it.
Land Rover BAR is part funded by wealthy private investors with a passion for sailing, including entrepreneur Keith Mills, Dixons Carphone Chairman Charles Dunstone and Vitol executive director Chris Bake.
But in order to succeed, it also needed to attract big-name corporate sponsors including Land Rover, BT, BAE Systems and Siemens who provide both financial backing and technical know-how.
One supporter who sets Land Rover BAR apart from the other America’s Cup challengers is Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine, who has sailed with Ainslie and is patron of the 1851 Trust, the charity he has set up to encourage young people to discover science and technology through sailing.
As well as being team principal, skipper, part-time fund-raiser and ambassador, Ainslie has managed to attract an impressive team to the BAR stable.
Crucial among these are chief executive Martin Whitmarsh, who brings years of experience as head of the McLaren Formula One team and Jono Macbeth, a 44-year-old New Zealander who has three America’s Cup wins, as sailing team manager.
Ainslie also enlisted Giles Scott as tactician on his catamaran “Rita”. Scott was heir to Ainslie in the Finn dinghy, emerging from his shadow to win Olympic gold in Rio. ($1 = 0.7778 pounds)
Reporting by Alexander Smith, editing by Pritha Sarkar