Sir Ben Ainslie has downplayed reports of a future alliance between Team New Zealand and Ineos Team UK, saying his British team are solely focused on their attempt to qualify for the America’s Cup match in March.
There has been recent speculation around the Viaduct that Ineos Team UK are being lined up as the Challenger of Record for the next Cup, should the Kiwi syndicate successfully defend the Auld Mug this time around.
It’s partly because of the obvious tension between Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand, which escalated late last year and is ongoing.
The Italians were the logical choice to be challenger of record after Bermuda, given the two teams had worked together in the past.
But the previously strong relationship between the Italians and Team New Zealand has drastically eroded, to the point where it is hard to imagine them working together again, despite the historically close associations between Prada supremo Patrizio Bertelli, Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena and Team New Zealand head Grant Dalton.
Ineos Team UK skipper Ben Ainslie was part of the Team New Zealand operation for the 2007 campaign in Valencia, building a lot of contacts and friendships that remain intact to this day.
Ainslie was initially tactician, then switched to helming the backup boat, helping to drive the best performances out of Dean Barker as they won the Louis Vuitton Cup.
That background, and the huge financial backing from Ineos founder and Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe, might make them logical choices to be challenger of record, given their Cup quest is likely to be a long-term one.
However, Ainslie played a straight bat when asked about the future possibilities.
“We have a good relationship with the Kiwis and I have a good relationship with Dalts,” Ainslie told the Herald.
“I have seen a few of the rumours about challenger of record and so on but at this stage we are just trying to get through to being in this Cup itself and actually racing them in the first place, so who knows what might happen in the future.”
The challenger of record (COR) system started in 1970, with the onset of multiple challengers for the Cup, with the COR given overall responsibility for organising the challenger series, as well as agreeing on the class and design protocol with the defender.
Recent challenger of records have included Artemis (2013), Oracle (2007), Luna Rossa (2003) and Young America (representing the New York Yacht Club, 2000).
In 2017 there was a challenger’s committee, after the withdrawal of Team Australia (Hamilton Island Yacht Club), who were the original challenger of record.
The only previous occasion in which there was a British challenger of record was in 1974, when the Royal Thames Yacht Club issued the first notice to challenge the New York Yacht club.
The economic environment at the time meant that the London club ultimately withdrew, but they still maintained their commitment of organising the challenger series, which was won by Alan Bond’s Southern Cross over a French syndicate.
Heading into the Cup racing?
• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It’s the best way to ride.
• Don’t forget to scan QR codes with the NZ Covid Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America’s Cup Village.
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.
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