Sailing: Ben Ainslie gets new backer on board as SailGP gains fans

The British team takes part in the first day of the SailGP Grand Prix Dubai competition on Nov 12. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - Britain’s Ben Ainslie hailed a new investment valuing his privately-owned SailGP team at US$40 million (S$54.2 million) as a vote of confidence in sailing’s equivalent of Formula One.

London-based Misland Capital will join Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor, as a shareholder in the privately-owned Great Britain SailGP Team.

“SailGP is progressing well. This shows the growth of the league, which is what we are all excited about,” Ainslie said of the high-octane racing in catamarans which “foil” above the water at speeds nearing 100kmh.

The brainchild of Oracle chairman Larry Ellison and New Zealand sailor Russell Coutts, SailGP is now into its third season with nine teams, an expanding global event footprint, increasing sponsorship and a fast-growing television audience.

“Sailing has been crying out for a circuit like this that’s cot the continuity not just on the water but commercially,” Ainslie, 45, told Reuters in an interview from the Spanish Mediterranean island of Mallorca.

Ainslie, who will remain his team’s majority owner, said there were further commercial deals in the pipeline, both for the British entry and the league, which was “on the verge of signing a really impressive partnership”.

“The key message is there are people who are investing in this league and franchise in a significant manner,” he said, adding that while SailGP still owns most of the teams, it is looking to them to adopt a similar structure to his.

Ainslie may lead the fleet when it comes to financial independence, but is fourth on the leaderboard after an “unfortunate” loss last month to Australia’s Tom Slingsby.

Ben Ainslie, CEO of the Great Britain SailGP team, will remain the team’s majority owner. PHOTO: REUTERS

However, with four more events - including the Jan 14-15 leg in Singapore - to complete to earn a place in next year’s winner-takes-all US$1 million grand final in San Francisco, he is confident of his crew’s consistency.

“That final race, it will be anyone’s for the taking.” REUTERS

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