This summer, the Land Rover BAR sailing team will compete to become the first British crew in 166 years to win the America’s Cup and ‘Bring The Cup Home’. Land Rover, along with Ben Ainslie Racing and the 1851 Trust (Land Rover BAR’s official charity) are endeavouring to encourage the next generation of British sailors, through events at local sailing clubs in the UK.
These local clubs help to nurture talented next-generation sailors, who one day could go on to represent Britain in the America’s Cup. Using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education, as well as the excitement of Britain’s participation in the America’s Cup, our aim is to inspire more to take to the water.
Alongside our title sponsorship of BAR, Land Rover sponsors a number of local club events across the country both directly and through our retailers, helping to grow the sport through grass roots activities.
Here we discover the background of four members of the Land Rover BAR team, whose passion and careers in sailing began at grass roots clubs in a variety of locations across the UK.
Sir Ben Ainslie – Team Principal and Skipper.
First Club: Restronguet Sailing Club – Falmouth, Cornwall.
Sir Ben Ainslie celebrates an ACWS victory
A four-time World Sailor of the Year, it was in 2012 that Sir Ben Ainslie founded the team that bears his name. Born in Cheshire, he grew up in Falmouth on the South Coast and thanks to his father’s passion for sailing, a young Ainslie took to the water in an Optimist dinghy at the local Restronguet Sailing Club, aged eight. Since being founded in 1933, the club has fostered sailing in every generation, but places particular importance on developing young talent. The club’s long tradition includes the development of both international and national champions such as Sir Ben.
Sir Ben’s sailing career took off in 1996 when at the age of 19 he won silver at the Atlanta Olympic Games. Four years later he would go one better, winning gold in the Laser class in Sydney. He would go on to become the most successful Olympic sailor in history by taking Finn class gold at Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008, before winning gold in his last Olympics at London 2012. He was subsequently chosen as the flag-bearer for the British team at the closing ceremony.
Following his Olympic triumph, attentions turned to the America’s Cup and the formation of Ben Ainslie Racing, initially competing in the 2012/13 America’s Cup World Series.
During the 2013 edition of the America’s Cup in San Francisco, Ainslie joined the crew of the defending Oracle Team USA. With Oracle trailing Emirates Team New Zealand 5-0, the team brought Ainslie in as on-board tactician and he subsequently became an integral part of one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history. Oracle recovered from an 8-1 deficit to win 9-8 and successfully defend the cup on America’s west coast. Oracle’s victory meant that Sir Ben was the first Briton in 110 years to be part of a winning America’s Cup team. This fuelled Ainslie’s ultimate desire to ‘Bring The Cup Home’ to Britain.
Giles Scott MBE – Grinder/Bow.
First Club: Grafham Water Sailing Club, Cambridgeshire.
Olympic Gold medallist and Land Rover BAR crew member Giles Scott.
Running for over 50 years, Grafham Water Sailing club in Cambridgeshire is situated on the shore of Britain’s third-largest reservoir and boasts over 1,000 members using some 600 boats. It is also the home club of 2016 Olympic Gold Medallist and BAR crew member, Giles Scott.
Giles was encouraged to sail from as young as six by his parents and he became Topper National Champion by the time he reached his teenage years. Giles’ first taste of the America’s Cup came in 2012 when he joined the crew of Team Korea for the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) leg in San Francisco, with the team finishing the regatta in an unexpected third place. He followed this early America’s Cup success by joining Team Luna Rossa Challenge for the entirety of their 2013 America’s Cup campaign, which included success in the AWCS once again.
Giles joined Land Rover BAR as strategist following his biggest achievement in the sport to date. Following in Sir Ben Ainslie’s footsteps, he claimed Finn class gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics with two races to spare. His win added to a long period of dominance for Britain in the Finn class, stretching back to 2000.
Neil Hunter - Grinder/Bow.
First Club: Arran Junior Sailing Club - Isle of Arran, Scotland.
Arran Yacht Club
Growing up on the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, Neil received his sailing education at Arran Yacht Club. The Yacht Club is home to Arran Junior Sailing Club, set up to introduce sailing to children aged ten and upwards as part of the school curriculum on the island. Located in the town of Lamlash in the southern half of the island, the waters around the harbour provide ideal conditions for apprentice sailors, with sheltered waters as well as stunning scenery including Holy Isle just off the Arran coast.
Neil was another Land Rover BAR crew member inspired to take to the water by his parents. They themselves were both sailors, with his mum forming part of the crew on board ‘Maiden’ which competed in the 1989 Whitbread round the world race.
His first foray into racing began aged 13, with Neil quickly progressing into the 420 class and subsequently the Scottish RYA’s 420 Squad before moving onto the 29er class with his younger brother Rory. The Hunter brothers began to sail a 49er together during their time at university, training during their spare time.
Following the formation of the Land Rover BAR Academy in 2016, Neil was invited to sail with the team at the Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) event in Oman. He went on to become Skipper of the team. Following their success in this series and his growing experience within Land Rover BAR, he was asked to join the team that would set their sights on the America’s Cup in Bermuda.
Bleddyn Mon – Wing Trimmer/Grinder.
First Club: Red Wharf Bay Sailing and Water Sports Club - Bangor, Wales.
Bleddyn Mon on board Land Rover BAR boat R1.
Nicknamed ‘Bleds’ by the teammates, Bleddyn grew up in Bangor in North Wales and learned to sail in nearby Angelsey. Having first started sailing with his family off a local beach, he then joined Red Wharf Bay Sailing Club. Founded in 1952 and situated in a small bay, the club provided a safe environment for juniors whilst remaining challenging for more experienced or skilled sailors.
Bleddyn began his sailing education in a GP14, before moving onto Mirrors where he sailed with his brothers. During his teens, he went on to become a World and European medallist in the 29er class. During University, he was part of The Wave Muscat crew in the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series, before joining Ben Ainslie Racing for the same series in 2014.
Alongside his on-boat duties, Bleddyn is part of the Land Rover BAR Performance and Instrumentation Team. This team provides crucial data analysis using state-of-the-art systems to monitor and measure the boat’s performance, as well as providing information on how to improve this performance.
The America’s Cup takes place from 26th May 2017. You can follow the progress of @LandRoverBAR and the crew via Land Rover UK’s social media channels using #BringTheCupHome.