High hopes for Britain as Sir Keith Mills announces new British America's Cup team 4/1/07

 Any doubts the British public had about interest in the America’s Cup have been quashed today with the announcement of a new British America’s Cup team. At a press conference held this morning in London Sir Keith Mills announced he is to create a British Challenge for the America’s Cup.

The team to be named Origin will, according to Mills and Rod Carr (CEO of the RYA), comprise some of the world’s leading sailors, boat designers and builders from the UK and beyond.
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Mills, who was founder of the Air Miles business, and who was appointed International President and CEO of London 2012 in 2003 – the company that successfully bid for the 2012 Olympics – talked confidently this morning about how he and his new team (yet to be announced) hopes to make history by becoming the first British team ever to win the America’s Cup.

It was revealed that Origin will participate in at least two America’s Cups likely to take place in 2009 and 2011 respectively.

However, despite spending over a year in the initial planning stages Mills said he was unable to divulge any information about the team, designers, builders, host club and location of team base. But what is clear, once the 32nd America’s Cup is ‘put to bed’ in six month’s time, team players will be announced and a strong base established in order to proceed with the next British America’s Cup Challenge.

Chatting to yachtingworld.com Mills, who is himself a keen sailor having competed as crew on the winning yacht in the 1999 Clipper Round the World Race with Alex Thomson at the helm, confirmed that until next week he couldn’t supply any names, commenting: “Early next week we’ll probably announce some early management posts but major designers, sailors, builders CEO will have to wait. I have lots of ideas about all the key people but many of them are in a contract.”

Rod Carr added: “We are the world’s most successful sailing nation in almost all disciplines. In my opinion there are three peaks in competitive racing – Olympics and offshore and America’s Cup – but the America’s Cup is the only major trophy we have never won. And I believe that Mills wouldn’t be entering this arena if he didn’t believe he could win.”

Although it won’t be particularly surprising, come the middle of the year, to find the likes of Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy on the list of possible contenders Carr confirmed that by no means is the team going to be purely British, adding: “In reality pretty much all the top sailors who are in the frame and to use a football term are ‘cup tied’ so we can’t actually take any actions with them right now.

“We have two or three key players at the top of our list from Britain but we are not necessarily going to have an all British team. We will have the best people for the job, many of whom will be Brits. The appropriate conversations have been had with all the people you would expect, but that’s all we can say at the moment. After the conclusion of this America’s Cup there will be a steady stream of announcements. Right now it would be inappropriate, unprofessional and illegal to mention anyone.”

British sailors will be hoping that Mills has more success than his predecessor Peter Harrison in raising the essential sponsorship required to fund the America’s Cup campaign. Harrision’s GBR team made it to the quarterfinals of the 2003 Cup in Auckland but lack of essential funds made it impossible to embark on a second campaign.

Mills confirmed that he will be underwriting the whole Origin campaign – 30 million Euros a year – and says he will be investing 50 per cent with the other 50 per cent being financed commercially.

With a short-lead time of the America’s Cup cycle now just two years away the new British Origin team need to be in place by the time this year’s event finishes in Valencia this summer. Mills said: “Yes, the aim is to run two campaigns. The first one in 09 will be tight so the aim is to concentrate on getting a top 3-4 overall position. The second one in 2011 we aim to win.”

To hear Keith Mills’ announcement on the new British team and the views of Rod Carr
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Also, don’t miss the next issue ofYachting World- February issue – featuring Brits on Board. In this six-page article Matt Sheahan takes an in-depth look at British sailors currently involved with the 2007 America’s Cup some of whom could be top contenders for the British Origin America’s Cup team. The February issue is officially on sale next Thursday 11 January but visitors to the London Boat Show will be able to purchase copies on the Yachting World stand B008. Click here to subscribe.