So on October 4th at 12.30pm, the America’s Cup world will be beamed into the future as the newly named Ineos Britannia will reveal where they are at, what they are thinking and the direction of travel they’re going. The Mercedes facility at Brackley in West Northamptonshire, some 70 miles from London, will be opened to scare the horses rigid in the other teams fusing, as it does, all the state-of-the-art facilities of Formula 1 but more crucially the Mercedes Applied Science Division that will play a huge role in the design of the next British challenger.
We will hopefully get a glimpse of the team being assembled and we can expect, with bated breath, some potentially highly significant announcements. The music is starting to stop in the Cup and everyone’s scrambling for seats.
Paul Goodison would be a good announcement and a major speed addition to the team, whilst the game of tracking Tom Slingsby is a fun Instagram one at the moment. First up Tom was in Paris having some well-earned downtime with his missus and then last night he popped up in Geneva of all places. Now who’s that bloke that lives in Geneva, right on the bank of the lake just up from the Societe Nautique? Wild speculation on my part…but who knows where Tom will land. Ineos would be a great place for him if it happens.
The question of whether Giles Scott will be involved, fresh from a fabulous and final Finn Gold in Tokyo, is one where the rumour pendulum swings both ways. Let’s hope he is in as Giles gave Ineos and crucially Ben, an edgy presence when he was on the podium in Auckland. He’s no nonsense. He doesn’t take fools like me lightly. He doesn’t fall into bear-traps set by silly journalist questions and he oozes a winning mentality. I like seeing Giles in the mix. The temperature rises around him. He’s dynamite on the boat and rock solid.
But the big one is: who will lead the Ineos Britannia team at CEO level? We thought we had the answer earlier in the week when Italian press reports stated that Dave Brailsford, the cycling guru of ‘marginal gains’ fame who currently leads Ineos’s UCI World Tour team, the Ineos Grenadiers, was moving away from the day-to-day of running the team and upstairs into a more global role at Ineos Sports Group.
This was hastily denied the following day by Brailsford directly. The fact that he has suffered both cancer and open heart surgery recently would indicate to me that his time in the white hot arena of professional cycling is probably nearer to its conclusion than he would like to admit and what an amazing addition that would be to Ben Ainslie and the lads, even if he were just in a behind-the-scenes advisory capacity.
But my suspicion is that he’s not going to be team leader of Ineos Britannia and there’s very few names in our sport that are capable of leading a team like this. Perhaps in the spirit of ‘team’ Jim Ratcliffe is tacking away from the figurehead role. Ben perhaps is deemed to be the man for the job and, whisper it quietly, not on the boat.
That would be sensational but I could see it working although his form in SailGP suggests that he’s right up there and white hot at the moment, but another three years of this? Could there be some youngsters coming through and Ben steps aside to usher through and encourage the next generation. Scott perhaps as driver with Slingsby as tune-up helm in the simulator? Who knows. Iain Percy would be a great foil on land if Ben’s driving but he’d need to be persuaded away from Torben Tornquist’s Artemis Technologies where he is currently CEO.
The interesting thing about the Ineos Sports Group is that they are rather cleverly merging talents and pulling brilliant individuals from sports to compete effectively across all of the sports that they are involved in. If you’re a leading aero-dynamicist on Formula 1, there’s now every chance that you could find yourself on a Monday morning turning up at the wind tunnel to find Ben’s latest foil as you are of finding Lewis Hamilton’s front deflector. And if you’re the sport scientist tasked with fuelling the cycling team this week, who knows you could be analysing Freddy Carr’s urine next week and telling him to cut down on the kebabs. It’s an absolute team effort now and what Jim Ratcliffe’s creating is a level structure able, as they say: “to deliver performance across the domains of land, sea and air.”
It’s going to be frightening for those teams struggling to find a shekel at the moment to see what’s being ranged against them by Ineos Britannia but don’t forget one thing: people matter. The lesson that the Ineos Grenadiers have learned rather harshly this year in the cycling is that talent matters.
You can have the roundest wheels and the latest carbon, you could even have a rain jacket that is easy to do up whilst cycling off the top of a mountain in driving rain, but when massive talent like Tadej Pogacar or Primoz Roglic are stamping on the pedals in the Tour de France or the Vuelta (Tour of Spain) and gapping your riders like Geraint Thomas or Egan Bernal, there’s not a lot you can do. In the Cup, talent matters in all areas from design through to the sailors and it’s the split decision in the throes of competition that just can’t be taught where players like Ainslie, Goodison, Scott and Slingsby excel.
I think it’s universally agreed that since the ignominious defeat in Auckland this year, Ratcliffe has barely put a foot wrong. He’s the ‘Blofeld’ of the America’s Cup at the moment, to whom all, Dalton included, defer to whether they admit it or not. Quite whether he’s revelling in all the nonsense around the venue and the shenanigans down in New Zealand is something that we might get a glimpse of at the announcement. That is, if the venue hasn’t been announced by then.
My guess is that he can smell blood in the water. He is fast proving to be the master at pulling the strings, unafraid to tell the game players to ‘Foxtrot Oscar,’ and has quickly established himself as the go-to. That’s got to sit uncomfortably with the Americans, Italians and the Swiss who have never enjoyed playing second fiddle to anyone and as for Team New Zealand, they are firmly in Jim’s breast pocket at the moment.
One thing’s for sure, Jim isn’t going to be amused at another poor performance. This is now about winning. This is up there as a challenge with Eilud Kipchoge going sub two hours on the marathon distance through a combination of technology and unbelievable talent. This is winning the Tour de France. This is Lewis Hamilton making (more) history. This is winning the French football league. This is winning the America’s Cup. No second best. No plucky but inevitable defeat. This is no excuse to lose.
The big reveal will be interesting on so many levels. Almost what’s not said will be as important as what is. Personnel, their interaction and the body language towards the money will say plenty. This is Ratcliffe’s team and he’s very much calling the shots behind very closed doors of the Brackley initiative but it’s a team of mighty proportions. Everyone is on message. They all will be towing the line.