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Ben Ainslie becomes majority owner of British SailGP team

Former Vitol MD Chris Bake also on board to back British sailor’s option to acquire franchise team.

7 October 2021 Tom Bassam
Ben Ainslie has become the majority owner of the Great Britain SailGP team

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  • Ainslie’s deal to enter SailGP came with option to acquire British team if costs and liabilities were covered
  • Olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup winner sees commercial viability in SailGP’s sustainability messaging

Ben Ainslie, the Olympic gold medal and America’s Cup winner, has become the majority owner of the Great Britain SailGP team.

With the global franchise sailing series now deep into its second season, the British team becomes the first to be taken under third-party ownership, a long-term objective of SailGP. As a condition of Ainslie’s entry into the series, the Briton secured an option to take ownership of the franchise if its running costs and liabilities were covered in full.

Through an investment from Chris Bake, a keen sailor and director at energy trading group Vitol, this option has been exercised. Ainslie and Bake now take majority ownership of the team, with Oracle Racing, Larry Ellison’s yacht racing syndicate and SailGP’s main backer, retaining a minority equity stake.

Two more third-party owned teams will be joining SailGP for its third season next year. A Swiss team, backed by Lundin Energy, was announced last month, while earlier in the year insulation manufacturer Rockwool confirmed it was taking on the operational brief for the Danish team.

Ainslie told Reuters that he and Bake would have to bring in cash to fund the operations of the British SailGP team, with each campaign costing millions of dollars a year per team. With the series aiming to be ‘100 per cent powered by nature, both on and off the water’ by 2025, Ainslie sees the sustainability message as a key selling point to potential partners

“I can see massive potential to bring in the commercial partners that want to be associated with the team, as well as younger sailors and female sailors and the sustainability angle that comes with the league,” he told Reuters.

In the official announcement regarding the acquisition, Ainsley added: “With new teams, owners and partners coming into SailGP the league is in a very exciting commercial space right now.

“SailGP has the commitment from Larry Ellison to take sailing where it has never been before. We look forward to welcoming new like-minded partners to the GB team who share our ethos and our drive to push forward positive change.”

Bake, former managing director of Vitol – which is the world’s the largest independent oil trader – has previously backed other sailing ventures, including 44Cup outfit Team Aqua. He said he is enthused by SailGP’s commitment to diversity in the sport.

He said: “Ever since I have been involved in sailing it’s been clear to me that the sport needs to commit more to providing pathways, both to grow the sport and to grow diversity and inclusion with the sport. Over the past couple of years, I have been very impressed and supportive of the work SailGP is doing in this space, particularly through their gender equity initiative. I am delighted to be a part of the League that will inspire future generations to become involved in our sport.”

SailGP resumes in Cádiz, Spain for the final event of the European leg of the season on 9th and 10th October.

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