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A British team at the America’s Cup: smooth sailing?

Much has been said of Olympic sailing gold medalist Sir Ben Ainslie's ambitions for the America's Cup and his plan to raise $100 million for a team at the world's most prestigious sailing event – but is a British team at the America's Cup a realistic expectation?

After Larry Ellison's Oracle team – of which Ainslie was a member – won last year's America's Cup in a breath-taking comeback finale, focus is back on the high-octane sport of sailing and the lineup for the next Cup.

(Read more: Larry Ellison's Oracle team keeps America's Cup)

But with a personal fortune of $41 billion can anyone compete with Ellison's financial fire power?

Ainslie was clear that his bid for the Cup is in the spirit of competition, noting that Ellison himself supports the bid. "He's very supportive of our team model... we're really the first team other than Emirates Team New Zealand who are trying to be predominantly a commercially-backed team," Ainslie said at the opening of the Extreme Sailing Series in Singapore.

Oracle Team USA skippered by James Spithill celebrates after beating Emirates Team New Zealand to defend the America's Cup on September 25, 2013 in San Francisco, California.
Getty Images
Oracle Team USA skippered by James Spithill celebrates after beating Emirates Team New Zealand to defend the America's Cup on September 25, 2013 in San Francisco, California.

If successful, Ainslie's team would be the first British team to win the America's Cup in its 163 year history.

Generous investors

Ainslie's fundraising has met with surprising success thus far amid a heightened level of national pride following the London 2012 Olympics.

"There's obviously a lot of support there to see a British team and we've really been able to build on that to bring in the right private investors and potential commercial partners to start building the team," he said.

(Read more: Oracle's Ellison skips keynote for America's Cup)

The aim of Ainslie's plan is to reach about 40 percent of the budget through private investors. So far they have about 70 percent of that amount underwritten.

Even Ainslie's team at the Extreme Sailing series has the support of British investors with the use of chase boats from UK Rib builder, Scorpion RIBs

It has to be realistic

Larry Ellison may have spent a magnificent sum – speculated to be around $300 million – on last year's winning team but he has certainly fostered a sense of competition in the Cup. It's just a case of whether the next season will be affordable for a range of competitors.

Details of the race stipulations and boat design for the next Americas' Cup – which will be key for deciding the cost of running a campaign – are expected to be released in March.

(Read more: Did Larry Ellison cheat in the America's Cup?)

"We haven't committed to go forward yet," said Ainslie. "If they say that to have a chance to win, the budget will be $300-500 million then we will not be able to raise that."


Ainslie's all-British team JP Morgan BAR won 2 races in the first day of the Extreme Sailing Series and are currently ranked 5th. There will be another 250 races before the winner is decided in Sydney in December 2014.

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