Guv’s Call | An update from Team Principal and Skipper Ben Ainslie

The past few months have been a difficult time for the team, as it has been for everyone around the world. Trying to manage the risks and dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic whilst having to deal with the issues around the America’s Cup team has been a challenge.

This week, after over three months on land, we have been delighted to be able to get back to business and back out on the water. In the ongoing situation, however, it’s very important that we minimise the risk to our team and the community wherever we can, and that is why we have put together a new strategy we call Zero COVID days.

The strategy covers everything from how we behave in our home lives through to how we operate in our base and in our community. Hygiene is a big focus, for example, and we have given all team members INEOS hand sanitisers and Henri-Lloyd face coverings. Alongside that are our team’s social distancing policies which we can now monitor closely through social distancing devices we are using through a new partnership with a company called Mafic.

These Mafic devices are wearables that can be attached to your arm or our Spinlock PFD (personal flotation device) that help us identify any hotspots where people are getting close to the two-metre social distancing barrier and ultimately help us make sure we are as safe as we can be in our working practices.

Ben Ainslie wearing a Henri-Lloyd face covering ahead of sailing
© C GREGORY

The policies continue when we are out on the water too. The sailors use the same PPE and we have placed an e-grinder on the boat. That is effectively a large battery pack which reduces the requirement of the number of crew on the boat. That enables us space out as much as possible whilst still being able to fully operate and sail the boat.

As our challenge for the America’s Cup continues our focusses are now threefold. Firstly, we are making sure we keep the build of our America’s Cup race boat, Britannia II, on track. Carringtons, our boat builders in Hythe (Hampshire), have done a fantastic job and we are on track with that which is great news.

Secondly, we have to make sure we keep our first race boat Britannia I operational on the water in Portsmouth, which we have started doing again this week. There are a lot of development items that are coming through that will eventually get onto our second boat.

Then, finally, it’s all about getting to New Zealand. That is proving to be something we can’t control, however we are doing absolutely everything we can to work with the New Zealand authorities to go through the correct processes. New Zealand have done an amazing job in terms of how they have responded to the crisis and hopefully we can find a workable process in order to enter the country.

It's been a big week for us as a team to get back on the water sailing. It's been an incredibly difficult time for everyone, be that in our America's Cup world or for everyone around the world, so it has put a big smile on a lot of people's faces to get back out there doing what we are supposed to be doing and pushing the team forward towards the America's Cup in 2021.

Keep safe,

Ben