Sir Ben Ainslie buys majority stake in UK team SailGP


Briton Sir Ben Ainslie now has another title: Team Owner in the SailGP World League.

Ainslie and his business partner Chris Bake have acquired a controlling stake in UK team SailGP, with US tech billionaire Larry Ellison retaining a minority stake.

The UK team, led by Ainslie, is the first of eight existing SailGP teams to become a third-party franchise in the league that Ellison and former America’s Cup champion Sir Russell Coutts of New Zealand founded in 2019. A new Swiss team announced for the third season and a yet unannounced team also have third party ownership.

Ainslie, the most successful sailor in Olympic history and former America’s Cup champion, said he was so impressed after joining SailGP for season two that he began to explore the possibility of owning it.

“As you know, this has been the role model for many years in American sport and has proven to be successful,” Ainslie said Wednesday from Cadiz, Spain, where season two resumes this weekend. “We’ve never had that in sailing before so I think it’s a really cool time for the sport that we have this league and we’re now in a position where these franchises are starting to be taken and starting to have a real effect. value.”

SailGP is contested in fast 50 foot foil catamarans. The champion of the season will claim a prize of $ 1 million, the winner takes it all.

Ainslie is simultaneously participating in a British challenge for the America’s Cup. He thinks the two events complement each other. While there are typically three to four year intervals between America’s Cup regattas, SailGP has an annual calendar of regattas around the world.

Ainslie said he believes they can get by commercially in SailGP.

“We wouldn’t have gone in there if we hadn’t thought there was a reasonable chance that we would get to this point,” he said. “This is not a vanity project. Otherwise, it would have been easier to take a salary from the league and show up and do the event without taking the risk. We clearly believe in the league and the team and believe we can make this a profitable franchise.

Ainslie declined to say what percentage he and Bake own. The franchise fee is believed to be $ 20 million. Bake is a businessman as well as a sailor, having raced for years in the RC44 class, which was co-designed by Coutts.

Ainslie said he has time to lead both an America’s Cup and SailGP team.

“For me, SailGP is a must, a must in terms of competitive racing,” he said. “There is nothing like it there at the moment. We have to run at this level. I’m really happy that we made the effort to make sure that we can compete, that we have the franchise. Without it, you’d be scratching your head waiting for the next America’s Cup, wondering how you’re going to be competitive sailing in the meantime. There are a lot of reasons why the two events complement each other and you should definitely participate in both.

Ainslie is a five-time Olympic medalist and the only sailor to win four gold medals. He was part of the Oracle Team USA that staged one of the biggest comebacks in sports history to keep the America’s Cup in 2013. Ellison owned that union and Coutts was CEO of the union. ‘sailing team.

After five of the eight regattas, Ainslie’s team is currently in fourth place in the SailGP general classification.

“A lot of sports people play the sport very well but never get into business and now Ben is clearly moving into the business side of the sport which is fantastic,” Coutts said over the phone. “It’s really exciting. It is also becoming a goal for some of the other top sailors.


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