Ineos Team UK, the British challenger for the America’s Cup, has agreed a deal to operate the Great Britain team in fledgling sailing series SailGP.
Beginning with the global league’s second season starting in February 2020, Ineos Team UK team principal and skipper, Sir Ben Ainslie, will head the SailGP operation, with a view to it being ideal preparation for the bid to win the 36th America’s Cup, which will take place in New Zealand in 2021.
UK newspaper The Telegraph said Ineos Team UK has signed a one-year commercial agreement with SailGP, which is run by US software billionaire Larry Ellison and former America’s Cup winner Sir Russell Coutts, with a view to extending beyond that.
Other SailGP teams are largely underwritten by Ellison, but Ineos Team UK will back their own campaign with annual budgets said to be around $7m (€6.35m) per team. “I think our arrival helps show there is a commercially sustainable model out there for SailGP,” Ainslie said. “I believe there is another new entry due to be announced any minute. It’s exciting.”
Ineos Team UK’s family of partners – Ineos, Belstaff and Grenadier – will support the Great Britain SailGP Team, while AFEX joins as an additional supporting partner. “The desire for Ineos and Ben Ainslie – alongside Belstaff, Grenadier and AFEX – to be part of SailGP is further testament to the commercial viability of our platform,” SailGP chief executive Coutts said in a statement.
“With crucial support from Ineos, Sir Ben Ainslie and the Great Britain SailGP Team will be contenders from day one and will create even more thrilling competition across our growing league.”
Ineos, the UK chemicals company founded by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, has been steadily building its presence in sport. Ineos partnered with Ainslie in April 2018 to form Ineos Team UK and Ineos Sports Group has had a highly successful six months.
UCI WorldTour cycling outfit Team Ineos placed first and second in the 2019 Tour de France and Eliud Kipchoge made history in the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in October, as the Kenyan became the first person to run a sub-two hour marathon. In August, Ineos completed a takeover of French Ligue 1 football club OGC Nice.
SailGP Season 2 premiers in Sydney (February 28-29), before returning to the US for events in San Francisco (May 2-3) and New York (June 12-13). Cowes on the Isle of Wight in the UK was recently announced as the first European event of Season 2, returning on August 14-15. The remainder of the Season 2 schedule will be announced in the coming months.