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Sir Ben launches Britannia – the America's Cup yacht he hopes will rule the waves

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Sir Ben Ainslie launches Britannia
Sir Ben Ainslie launches Britannia

THE boat with which Sir Ben Ainslie hopes to rule the waves, skippering a British team to America’s Cup glory, has been officially christened.

The former Lymington resident, Britain’s most decorated Olympic sailor, was on hand to unveil the boat’s name, Britannia, alongside multi-billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

Sir Ben is heading up Team Ineos GB, which will contest the coveted sailing trophy when the America’s Cup heads to New Zealand in 2021.

The bid is being sponsored to the tune of £110m by petrochemical giant Ineos, which still has offices in Lyndhurst and was founded by Sir Jim, who has a house in Beaulieu.

Sir Ben hailed Britannia, adding: “The quest to win the 36th America’s Cup has required a fresh approach, a new strategy and serious support from Ineos to focus entirely on the mission in hand.

“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.”

The AC75 vessel has an estimated top speed of 50 knots – or 57.5mph. Mechanically it has 25,000 individual parts, weighs 6.45 tonnes, its hull and rig were constructed using carbon fibre and it can carry 11 crew members weighing a maximum of 990kg.

Britannia in the water
Britannia in the water

Outlining the challenge, the boat’s chief designer, Nick Holroyd, explained: “This AC75 is the first foiling monohull of this size, it’s unlike anything ever seen on the water before.”

Its name is a homage to the racing cutter yacht Britannia whose name in turn was taken from James Thomson’s famous poem Rule, Britannia! written in 1740.

The original was built in 1893 for the then-Prince of Wales who became King Edward VII, before King George V took ownership and converted her into a J-Class racing yacht, the type sailed in three editions of the America’s Cup, 1930-1937.

She eventually finished with a lifetime record of 231 race wins and 129 further podiums making her the dominant yacht of the time.

King George V decreed his yacht should not outlive him, and after his death in 1936, she was stripped of her spars and fittings, towed out to St Catherine’s Deep off the Isle of Wight – the same waters in which the first America’s Cup was raced back in 1851 - and scuttled by the Royal Navy.

The mast and fittings of the yacht were saved, with the wheel subsequently fitted to the wheelhouse of the Royal Yacht Britannia, steering her for the next 44 years.

Ineos Team UK will test the new vessel on the waters of the Solent in Portsmouth before heading to Sardinia for winter testing ahead of the first America’s Cup World Series event in April next year.

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