Sir Ben Ainslie unveils racing yacht Britannia for America’s Cup bid

A new racing yacht named Britannia has been unveiled by four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie in his bid to win the America’s Cup.

The Ineos Team UK foiling yacht, which has taken 90,000 hours to design and 50,000 hours to build, has been christened in homage to the original Britannia, which was built in 1893 for King Edward VII, the then Prince of Wales.

America’s Cup Race Boat Launch Event
Sir Jim Ratcliffe (left), his daughter Julia and Sir Ben Ainslie (right) officially name the Ineos Team UK America’s Cup yacht Britannia (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The 72ft (22m) vessel was unveiled at the team’s headquarters in Portsmouth, Hampshire, by Sir Ben, with Sir Jim Ratcliffe, chief executive of the Ineos chemicals group which sponsors the team, and his 10-year-old daughter, Julia, who is the yacht’s godmother and who officially named it.

As her father attempted to pop the cork on the Nyetimber sparkling wine, Julia could be heard laughing on the microphone, saying: “Don’t kill me.”

Sir Ben said: “This boat, this beast, has taken a phenomenal amount of effort to achieve, to design, and engineer and build.

“It’s fair to say it’s without doubt one of the most technologically-advanced racing yachts ever built – 90,000 design hours, 50,000 construction hours – in our world of yacht design, that is a massive effort.”

He added: “I’m hugely proud of the team’s commitment to design and build our first race-boat; it’s taken a serious amount of hard work and now we can’t wait to get Britannia out sailing on the Solent.”

America’s Cup Race Boat Launch Event
Sir Ben Ainslie speaks to the crowd before the official naming ceremony (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Chief designer Nick Holroyd said: “This AC75 is the first foiling monohull of this size, it’s unlike anything ever seen on the water before.

“It’s hugely ambitious and it sets out an entirely new type of boat, and with only 18 months to design and build there comes challenges, but that’s what makes the Cup so exciting.”

Sir Jim, who also sponsors cycling and football teams as well as a bid to break the two-hour marathon mark, said: “We have got ourselves involved in quite a few serious challenges. We have one tick in the box with the Tour de France – that went pretty well, that was quite nail-biting up to the end, which I suspect this will follow a similar course.

“They are all extraordinary challenges, winning the Champions League, breaking the two-hour, winning the America’s Cup, these other sports weren’t around 170 years ago, this has been the longest sporting challenge on the planet, this is an immense challenge.”

Speaking of the yacht’s name, he said: “I think you will recognise the name, it is quite traditional, it is historic, it has a quite a lot of maritime provenance.”

The team will spend the coming months testing Britannia on the Solent before heading to Sardinia for winter testing ahead of the first America’s Cup Series event in Cagliari in April.

America’s Cup Race Boat Launch Event
Sir Ben Ainslie (right) and Sir Jim Ratcliffe at the launch of the Ineos Team UK America’s Cup yacht Britannia in Portsmouth (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The original Britannia was named after James Thomson’s famous poem Rule Britannia, written in 1740.

King George V took over ownership of it and converted it into a J Class racing yacht which sailed in three editions of the America’s Cup between 1930 and 1937.

The mast and fittings of the yacht were saved and fitted to the wheelhouse of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

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