A bizarre thing happened to me this morning. I had a breakfast meeting with an old friend in an upmarket part of old London town, at a café called Colbert, and as I looked up from my Crepe Complete, delicious by the way, there in front of me, just leaving at 9.35am, was a certain Sir Jim Ratcliffe. He was with people and looked in a hurry so presumably either the chopper was waiting for the trip up to Brackley, or the chauffeur was parked around the corner ready to whisk him up north but he was certainly cutting it fine for the Ineos Britannia press launch.
Whatever, and frankly it’s of no consequence, it was nice to see him in the flesh and Jim was there bang on cue on our screens at 12.30pm and the Ineos Britannia Challenge for the 37th America’s Cup is out of the gates, up and running.
It was understated firepower on display and I absolutely loved every second of it. Gone are the nonsense ‘Bring the Cup home’ strap-lines that just grate anyone older than about seven or eight and in its place were key messages of continuity, discipline, diversity, inclusion, honesty and to my mind the absolute key – humility.
It was a humble platform and quite remarkable to see, astonishing in fact. If you missed the humility, you missed everything. Jim looked down repeatedly, Ben was straight as a die and even injected a bit of humour, Toto was fun to listen to, James Allison was engineering intellect on full transmit. You warmed to them. I came away thinking: wow…we really do have a chance this time. The cut-away promo video to Bertie Bicket, the Royal Yacht Squadron supremo was pure class, as you’d expect, and the whole thing just worked.
Clearly harsh lessons have been learned but crucially the team have really listened and strategised accordingly. There were no mis-steps and the messaging was beautifully crafted, subtle and direct with a deadly serious undertone. The Brackley base is rubbing off well on the Ineos Britannia team as they infiltrate the inner sanctum and what’s coming over loud and clear to the outside is utter professionalism and the search for excellence everywhere.
And furthermore, they did a key thing that was massive. Right from the get-go, they owned the mistakes of the past with an honest appraisal. That takes guts and then straight away Toto admitted that Mercedes had come late to the Auckland party but the implication was there writ large that if they had been in from the start, the result would have been mightily different. Killer. Killer. Killer. Bravo.
The core team announcement was cooly done. Names tripped out – Martin Fischer has come across from Luna Rossa as lead designer. Matt Shaffer, the foil guru, is in there. David Endean is Chief Operating Officer. James Allison will be seconded from the F1 Team and will be on loan to oversee engineering as Chief Technical Officer with Geoff Willis as Technical Director. This is a good structure. This is a winning structure.
With little fanfare, just a statement of fact (as it should be), Ben Ainslie was confirmed as both CEO and Team Principal so that gives him wriggle room but most importantly he has real support around him this time. Decisions will be given due process and deep consideration rooted in honesty and you get the feeling that detail is everything with the Mercedes structure. When they are operating in a sport like F1 where thousandths of a second decide pole positions, you can be sure that every component will be pored over to the nth degree. This is what it takes to win the Cup.
But the very best news of all was saved to the after-show with Giles Scott confirmed as right in the heart of the mix. He was looking cooler than a polar bear, fitter than a butcher’s dog and ready for the upcoming campaign. So good to see and now as a double Olympic Gold medallist, there’s a real assurance and aura around him.
And my oh my, does he bring the edge. Giles is the key to winning this Cup – mark my words – and he looked very comfortable in the uber-professional set-up. You just warm to his competitive spirit and no-nonsense approach – he’s the best foil for Ben on the planet and when things get tough in the heat of the moment, he’s the kind of guy you want on your shoulder. Brilliant appointment and dynamite continuity.
I also liked the clever ducking of further team questions and even cleverer positioning around the venue and the Protocol. Quite simply, Ineos and Mercedes were in charge of this messaging exercise and that’s that. They didn’t need to say anything so they didn’t. Move swiftly along. Great. That’s very smart media management of an absolute banana-skin topic.
As a no excuse to lose challenge, the stars are aligning for Ineos Britannia and it’s a very different approach to the runway ahead of them. My goodness the debrief must have been thorough, tough and uncompromising but the awesome news is that they’ve listened and acted.
The Ineos sports stable door is shut and cosseting those inside the inner circle and they are doing it their way. Ultra-professionalism is the name of the game and excellence in every department. Today not only announced the core team but set the tone.
I like the tone.