Sir Keith on crest of a wave over return of America’s Cup to British waters
Sir Keith Mills is excited to be bringing the America’s Cup to British waters this summer for the first time in 164 years – a World Series event he believes will prove just the start, thanks to his confidence in fellow knight Ben Ainslie.
The America’s Cup is the oldest trophy in world sport, with the inaugural event taking place off the Isle of Wight in 1851. The competition may stem from Britain but it has never won it – a hoodoo Hampshire’s Ainslie is looking to end in 2017 with his team, Ben Ainslie Racing, in Bermuda.
“People perhaps won’t realise but this is really historic because since 1851 no British team has competed in British waters in an America’s Cup competition,” Mills, World Series organiser, said.
“This is the first time since 1851 – since the bloody thing started – that it is back, which is quite amazing. “The America’s Cup sits up there as one of the world’s great sport competitions, alongside the World Cup, Ryder Cup and other great competitions.
“Obviously we have huge history with it as it started in the UK and have never won it, so to have Ben and the team competing in home waters in the first stage of the America’s Cup I think is bloody exciting.”
Mills set up Team Origin in 2007 in a bid to bring the America’s Cup back to where it all started.
Now, he is a shareholder and investor in BAR and has taken on the responsibility of hosting and delivering the ACWS events in Portsmouth in 2015 and 2016.
Mills, deputy chairman of London 2012, says these events are key to building momentum ahead of the 35th edition, with up to 500,000 visitors expected to attend this year’s event between July 23 and 26.
Tickets for this “fantastic spectacle” went on sale on Monday, with the Waterfront Festival Arena putting fans within 100 metres of high-speed AC45 foiling catamarans and, amongst others, the “great sporting icon” that is Ainslie.
“When you’ve got five Olympic medals, four of which are gold, you are a national hero,” Mills said.
“Ben is a national hero and I think that by bringing the America’s Cup to the UK in 2015 and 2016 we can really engage the public and get them onside so that in 2017, when we come around to the final in Bermuda, the audience and support will be massive.”
Ainslie and his team are making impressive progress and will move into their Portsmouth base in the months leading up to this summer’s event.
The most-decorated Olympic sailor of all-time knows what it takes to win the America’s Cup, having done so in spectacular fashion with Oracle Team USA in 2013, so dare we dream of BAR winning the 35th edition?
“Once we bring it back, we are going to develop it, host it and turn the America’s Cup into the competition, the sporting event, it needs to be.
“It has had a bumpy ride over the years, with various lawsuits and other things which have happened, but it is a great competition.
“It deserves to be a great competition but first of all you need to win it. You have to be the trustee to develop the protocol, develop the rules and develop the governance.
“You can’t do that unless you are the trustee so we have to win it first and once we have won it we can transform it.
“What Ben needs is a great team around him, he needs to be properly financed and the whole team needs to be really well managed.
“If you have that combination, then the prospect of winning an America’s Cup are absolutely real and really within our grasp.”