Jim Ratcliffe: Britain's richest man plots America's Cup coup

He's investing $141 million (£110M) in a British America's Cup venture headed up by legendary sailor Ben Ai...

Posted: Sep 5, 2018 2:45 PM
Updated: Sep 5, 2018 2:45 PM

He's investing $141 million (£110M) in a British America's Cup venture headed up by legendary sailor Ben Ainslie, but billionaire Jim Ratcliffe is still discovering things about his Ineos team skipper.

For instance Ratcliffe, Britain's richest man with a fortune of $26.9 billion from his Ineos petrochemical company, had no idea Ainslie is a budding pilot who is working towards his private license.

America's Cup

Ben Ainslie

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Continents and regions

Europe

Marine transportation

Marine vessels

Northern Europe

Sailing (sport)

Sailing events

Sports and recreation

Sports events

Sports figures

Transportation and warehousing

United Kingdom

Water sports

Demographic groups

Population and demographics

Society

Wealthy people

Yachts

"We should put no flying into the contract," jokes Ratcliffe, 65, as the pair chat with CNN Sport in the sumptuous setting of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Ainslie, Britain's most successful Olympic sailor, was equally unaware of some of Ratcliffe's more adventurous escapades, such as getting lost on his own in a storm on the summit of Mont Blanc.

Apparently, he got separated from his friend and had to dig a snow hole for shelter before eventually following a Japanese party down the narrow exit ridge to wait out the tempest in an emergency hut.

"I hadn't heard any of that," laughs Ainslie.

The duo make for easy company, regularly laughing and chipping in on each other's answers, as they discuss the development of the Ineos Team UK outfit that will challenge for the America's Cup in New Zealand in 2021.

They met for the first time over a beer in March, arranged "rather mischievously" by a mutual friend, superyacht broker Chris Cecil-Wright.

"I'd read bits and pieces about Jim and Ineos in the press so I was intrigued," says the 41-year-old Ainslie, the team principal. "It's always interesting to meet people who are successful in any walk of life."

READ: Confessions of a superyacht stewardess

'Intriguing question'

Ratcliffe, who grew up on a council estate in Manchester, was named in this year's Sunday Times Rich List as the UK's wealthiest person on the back of a 60% stake in Ineos, the company he founded in 1998 which has recently courted controversy for its fracking operations.

Although he has owned a number of superyachts, the America's Cup had never been on his radar.

As a lifelong football lover -- Manchester United as a fan, Chelsea as a season-ticket holder -- Ratcliffe's first venture into sport was to buy Swiss football club FC Lausanne Sport last year.

He has also been linked with a £2bn takeover of Roman Abramovich's Chelsea this summer, although he refuses to discuss it publicly.

However, the meeting with four-time Olympic gold medalist Ainslie and talk of his quest to win the America's Cup -- dubbed the oldest trophy in international sports -- "stimulated some interest."

"I suppose it was the intriguing question of why, after 167 years of attempts, Britain still hadn't managed to win this sailing event, given we've produced quite a lot of good sailors over the years, ruled the waves for a few centuries, and are really good at Formula One, which is a marriage of technology and sport," says the Brexit-backing businessman.

READ: New York Yacht Club: Return of the greatest team you've never heard of

'Check for $9 billion'

The tall, lean Ratcliffe, in an open-necked white shirt and jeans, cuts a raffish air as he chomps on a sandwich and chats about how his various exploits over the years opened his mind to a Cup campaign. He has hauled a sled to both poles, been on a number of long-distance motorbike safaris across Africa and "climbed a few mountains."

"I just like the odd adventure, really," he says, his youthful eyes twinkling. "I'm privileged I can afford it."

He suggests taking on the America's Cup alongside building a billion-pound business is "part of that DNA."

"Ineos is a bit of an adventure from time to time," he laughs.

"Buying BP in 2005 was quite a challenge, I have to say. We wrote that check for $9 billion. We had to notify the Bank of England when we sent it to New York, it was the biggest check they'd ever received."

'Do it properly'

Over drinks, Ainslie told him of his "gut-wrenching" disappointment of the Bermuda 2017 America's Cup.

Ainslie's fledgling team reached the semifinals of the challenger series, only to lose heavily to eventual winner Team New Zealand. He describes the whole experience as "massively frustrating," knowing from a long way out they didn't have the firepower, in terms of boat speed, to contend.

Ratcliffe chides his new friend: "He's not been very good at not winning, have you?"

Ainslie told Ratcliffe his LandRover BAR team, as it was then known, was "realistically, up against it," saying he would need a far bigger budget -- up to 30% more -- to fund the two radical new 75-foot foiling monohull boats that will be the weapons of choice in Auckland.

Ratcliffe was keen, but only if Ineos could be the sole sponsor, instead of relying on a coterie of backers. Joint ventures, he says, "just make life more complicated."

"Then it's down to Ben and his team to design a fast boat so you get to the start line with a boat that's competitive and then you've got the race, you've got the sport," he says.

"If you're going to do it, do it properly."

Ainslie had come to the same conclusion and agreed a "gracious parting" with title sponsor Land Rover, as well as backers such as BT, Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse and air miles entrepreneur Keith Mills.

He took up with Ineos within "weeks."

'Don't make the same mistake twice'

Ratcliffe, a keen cyclist, says he has always been competitive. He "hates it" when he is beaten to the top of a climb, even by a colleague who is 40 years younger. And he says he has "never had a friendly game of football."

Now, that fire will be turned towards Britain's attempt to win back the America's Cup for the first time since the inaugural race in 1851.

"It would be immense," he says. "I'd love it. Also for Britain. We've been having a crack for one and half centuries, which describes the size of the challenge, so it would be a fabulous achievement."

Ratcliffe says his team will provide a "light touch," offering business advice and perspective, based on a lifetime of "predominantly right decisions."

Ainslie says Ratcliffe's ability to cut through the noise and focus on the end result -- designing the fastest boat -- is already paying off.

"I don't have any advice to give to Ben just because I've done a few daft things in my life," adds Ratcliffe. "But one of the lessons is don't make the same mistake twice."

He laughs: "I wouldn't go up Mont Blanc without a guide again when there's a storm coming in."

READ: Revolutionary Gonet Monofoil takes flight

'A lot of swimming'

With fresh impetus, Ainslie has already stolen a march on the opposition by launching a smaller prototype of the new AC 75, a foiling 28-footer known as T5. The race boats can't be launched until March 31, 2019.

"The test boat is a handful," he says. "It's a really fun boat to sail. If the 75 is as full on as the test boat, it's going to be interesting. There's been a lot of swimming involved."

So far, four teams will compete in Auckland -- defender Team New Zealand and challenger rivals Ineos, Italy's Luna Rossa and American Magic.

More may emerge before the December 31, 2018 deadline, but Ainslie isn't fussed by the size of the field.

Visit CNN.com/sailing for more news, features and videos

"Frankly no, our goal is to win it," he says.

Ratcliffe is relishing the adventure. "The journey's got to be fun and interesting," he says.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 60101

Reported Deaths: 1689
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin19057831
Ramsey7444265
Dakota4334104
Anoka3618114
Stearns288620
Washington207744
Nobles17626
Olmsted171823
Scott153218
Mower10992
Rice10298
Blue Earth9115
Wright8695
Carver8413
Clay77940
Sherburne7188
Kandiyohi6891
St. Louis52119
Lyon4263
Todd4242
Freeborn3591
Steele3451
Nicollet33313
Benton3203
Watonwan3080
Winona25916
Crow Wing23214
Beltrami2230
Le Sueur2171
Martin2075
Chisago1991
Otter Tail1933
Goodhue1929
Cottonwood1770
McLeod1730
Pipestone1559
Becker1521
Polk1504
Waseca1480
Douglas1391
Itasca13812
Unassigned13741
Carlton1350
Pine1290
Dodge1260
Isanti1230
Murray1221
Chippewa1031
Wabasha910
Morrison891
Brown882
Faribault870
Meeker852
Rock830
Sibley832
Jackson810
Koochiching773
Pennington751
Mille Lacs713
Cass692
Fillmore640
Renville635
Lincoln570
Grant533
Swift521
Yellow Medicine520
Roseau470
Pope460
Aitkin401
Houston390
Norman390
Redwood360
Kanabec341
Wilkin343
Hubbard330
Marshall300
Mahnomen261
Wadena260
Red Lake240
Big Stone220
Lake200
Stevens180
Clearwater140
Traverse100
Lac qui Parle70
Cook30
Kittson30
Lake of the Woods20

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 48398

Reported Deaths: 925
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10223207
Woodbury371652
Black Hawk311566
Linn234887
Johnson206719
Dallas187835
Buena Vista179112
Scott171614
Dubuque166531
Marshall143826
Pottawattamie131426
Story116014
Wapello88133
Muscatine84648
Webster8017
Crawford7273
Sioux6253
Cerro Gordo60917
Warren5571
Tama54929
Jasper47626
Wright4651
Plymouth4579
Dickinson3804
Clinton3793
Louisa37814
Washington29810
Boone2553
Hamilton2461
Franklin23910
Bremer2247
Clarke1993
Emmet1914
Carroll1881
Clay1861
Shelby1831
Hardin1780
Des Moines1692
Marion1690
Poweshiek1578
Benton1551
Allamakee1544
Floyd1532
Jackson1511
Mahaska13917
Cedar1311
Guthrie1315
Jones1302
Buchanan1271
Hancock1222
Butler1212
Henry1203
Madison1182
Pocahontas1152
Lee1133
Lyon1132
Delaware1111
Cherokee1081
Humboldt1081
Harrison1060
Clayton1043
Taylor980
Iowa971
Winneshiek951
Page940
Monona910
Kossuth890
Mills890
Palo Alto840
Sac840
Calhoun832
Jefferson830
Osceola830
Fayette820
Grundy791
Winnebago790
Mitchell780
Union771
Monroe727
Cass711
Worth660
Lucas634
Montgomery594
Davis551
Chickasaw540
Howard490
Appanoose483
Fremont420
Greene410
Keokuk341
Van Buren341
Adair290
Ida290
Audubon281
Decatur230
Ringgold211
Wayne191
Adams160
Unassigned70
Rochester
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 70°
Mason City
Few Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 69°
Albert Lea
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 72°
Austin
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 72°
Charles City
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 70°
Storm chances End, Cooler & Less Humid Ahead
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Diversity Council hosts 'Allies and Advocates'

Image

More construction in downtown Rochester starts

Image

NIACC baseball pushing athletes to the next level

Image

Sunday weather

Image

Weather

Image

Rochester Area Restore celebrates 6 years

Image

Saturday Weather

Image

Grief mask making workshop

Image

Mace's Weather 8/8

Image

Tractor pullers excited to rev up their engines in 2020

Community Events