A lord, three knights of the realm, and a core fund of £32m. underpinned, at Britain’s naval heart, the claim that they were “absolutely confident we can win it, we wouldn’t be standing here if we didn’t think that.”
Here was the National Maritime Museum, the Lord was Michael Grade, and the knights were Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse and now Dixon group fame, Keith Mills of Air Miles, Tottenham Hotspur and London 2012 fame, and the man they were all there to support, Ben Ainslie, of four Olympic golds and a silver fame.
And the focus of their ambition is the America’s Cup, spawned in the waters of the Solent in 1851 and developed into one of the quirkiest competitions in international sport.
Lending her support was the Duchess of Cambridge, who enjoys a bit of yachting herself, but the main business was to introduce some key members of the Ben Ainslie Racing team and launch an assault on to a strengthening British economy to raise the other £48m.
“It would,” said Ainslie, “give us a realistic budget to go out there and win.” He confirmed that a challenger entry, accompanied by a non-refundable £1m. would be with the San Francisco-based defender, Oracle Team USA, ahead of the deadline of 8 August. Another million is needed by the end of the year plus a performance bond of a third million.
He introduced the two key members of his design team, Andy Claughton, who has been around the America’s Cup block for a few years, and star signing Dirk Kramers, who helped lead Oracle to its remarkable defence in the comeback from 1-8 down to 9-8 winner last year. Ainslie was onboard for the fight back.
He also introduced a further five of the core crew members – the squad will grow – three of them British and two Kiwis. Jono Macbeth, he said, was a no-brainer choice also recruited from Oracle and Andy McLean.
The three Brits are long-time associate Matt Cornwell, Nick Hutton, and David ‘Freddie’ Carr, son of former Royal Yachting Association and now UK Sport chair Rod Carr.
Ainslie was diplomatically careful when saying that he was discussing “issues” around the rules issued last week for the 2017 defence – venue as yet unknown. The Italians, who unveil their new base at Cagliari on Thursday, are fuming at what they see as “naked dictatorship.”