All of a sudden our timelines are filled with reflective Ineos Britannia posts looking back at the last campaign and celebrating the sheer hard work and dedication that went in to creating the last British America’s Cup challenger. Great pictures. Interesting insight.
It’s a curious social media strategy nicknamed the ‘Britannia Diaries’ and as with all things Ineos, it lands with zero to no explanation. Maybe it doesn’t need explanation? Even the name change just happened. No release. Nothing to see here. I applaud them for being so aloof. The media, it would seem, matters little to them. Public commentary is just fly-spit, tomorrow’s chip paper. Quite right too. Their narrative is what really matters. It’s all about their projections. It could be a dangerous strategy down the line but who’s to say it’s not the right one?
Ineos Britannia are very clear that they are operating on another plane. They will do a few pattacake columns in major national newspapers that are largely edited dross to trot out the party line but their message to the rest is: leave us to get on with it. Good for them.
And that’s all well and good whilst everything is going swimmingly and the team is filled with renewed hope as they enter the next cycle, but they can’t get away from the fact that they have a chequered history, a ball and chain of shaky performance, that no amount of reset will mask or erase. They come to this cycle with a mountain to climb and they know it.
Owning the mistakes of Auckland is crucial and whilst we have to assume that a rather brutal review was undertaken internally and never made public, we’ve heard and seen little so far in terms of results. Details of the new team make-up are pure speculation and it’s very much a closed-doors attitude. I applaud that to a point. Monday will tell us much.
And I can see the influence of the Formula 1 Mercedes Team that Ineos Britannia so aspires to ape and intertwine with, playing into their strategy. The way they handled the appointment of George Russell to next year’s number two role in F1’s greatest team was fascinating and didn’t bend to speculation or demanding questions. Mercedes did everything in their time and at their pace. The drivers were schtum and just kept to the script despite everyone knowing in the paddock that change was writ large.
Ineos Britannia will do the same. This is their schedule, not the media’s and you’ve got to say it’s mightily effective. It puts distance from the team and cossets those key players who have enough on their plates already. I rather felt that they were stung in Auckland and a bit bemused. This time it’s going to be very different. Again, good for them. It’s a supportive strategy this time centred around the team ethos.
As an example of what really good likes like, I defer to the Ineos Grenadiers, the cycling team, with their infectious humour, great social media and real insight into their lives both during the race season and into the off-season. It’s masterful. The utter seriousness of that soul-destroying sport where fine physiological differences at the outer edge of human capabilities define the winner on a mountain from the also rans, does little to deter the team’s openness with its public and a pretty rampant, sensational cycling media. But it’s all tightly controlled from the centre.
Ineos Britannia have been hidden away now for months, although there’s been plenty going on backstage, and I really hope that they’ve looked around the Ineos Sports Group and taken onboard all the best bits. As the heat of being Challenger of Record intensifies considerably in the coming weeks and months, they need to stay true to their course. My feeling is that the bullets that will be coming won’t be parried in the mainstream media alone. Public opinion will be swayed by multiple sources but if they get the message right from the off on Monday, they will be home and hosed.
What we’ve seen so far of Jim Ratcliffe is a fascinating and rather refreshing individual who’s having a lot of fun in sport alongside lieutenants that he’s built a remarkable business with.
Every time he’s interviewed, he’s great. You absolutely warm to him. His personal PR is spot-on and the team genuinely seem to like him as a guy despite utterly fearing his wrath. I rather suspect that quite a few are a bit enthralled by him in the way that the Oracle Team sat in awe of Larry Ellison – all except Russell Coutts who could, would, did and does stand up to him. Behind the spin, I do however, rather suspect a different character. Jim is a serious player and has no intention of being the usual run-of-the-mill chump with money in the America’s Cup.
And in the Cup, it’s always a fascinating watch seeing the serfs and master interaction – and what’s even more fascinating (and sometimes downright hilarious) is hearing the inside-track a few years later. It’s a simple equation: the money-men enjoy the fame and adulation right up to the very last cheque being written and then it’s open-season for a while. I think they know that. It’s all a great game in yachting.
The danger is being sucked into a vortex by the monied as they have a nasty habit of getting bitten and then dropping the team and program like a stone. Jim didn’t walk away after the last one. He doubled-down and that’s to be applauded. The smart ones in the team fly close to the flames but not too close as they all know their sell-by-date and sailing is a long and complex matrix of a career with inter-connections that can absolutely come back to haunt further down the track. Hitch too closely to one, fly those colours too proudly and consequences await. The clever ones keep a professional distance.
Hopefully the fireside reveal on Monday is an enthralling one. What would be nice to see is the team looking like they’re enjoying themselves and going in the right direction with dynamite appointments and a sense of purpose. It would be lovely to see a team that fully owns the past mistakes (I mean who really cares? Just own it) and plays down the determination side of things – that’s a hackneyed story at best.
A simple narrative of enormous opportunity before them, humility and hard work would be refreshing, as would a bit of humour – especially at the rather bizarre situation around the venue and the Protocol. The key is that whoever is on that rostrum doesn’t slump back in their chair and revert to type. Sit upright, be engaged and engaging, set the course for an incredible future, be enthusiastic at the team assembling and acknowledge the privileged position you have earned on merit and thoroughly deserve.
The Cup cycle is a rare and beautiful thing, ugly in parts but utterly inconsequential in the grander scheme of things. It’s a campaign, a program, a fleeting glimpse of sport at the extreme. It should be a thing of great wonder, a time of your life with enormous personal and professional development – something to look back at in years to come and go ‘wow’ with an ultimate prize beyond anything in sport.
My feeling is that Ineos Britannia is the one holding all the smarts right now. The world is watching their every move and they’re sitting in pole position with one heck of a journey ahead of them. Ultimately, my read is that they will reign supreme.
This is their time. This Cup is there for the taking now more than ever before and winning it fair, square…hopefully in the Kiwi’s backyard…would be one heck of an achievement. It’s everyone’s dream. Go and win the damn thing.