Skippered by Olympic Gold medal-winning yachtie Ben Ainslie, Mills' Team Origin is to challenge for the 34th America's Cup, the world's most prestigious yacht race and its oldest sporting title, to boot.
Dating back to 1851, The America's Cup comprises a series of match races between the defending boat (the previous cup’s winner) and a single challenger. Historically the Americans have had it pretty much their own way, although the current defender – Alinghi – hails improbably from the landlocked Swiss city of Geneva.
Team Origin's USP is that it will sail under an eco-banner, with Mills – a keen yachtsman who made a cool £160m from the sale of Nectar Card biz LMG in 2007 – hoping to do his bit for climate change. What could be greener than wind power, after all?
He’s also hoping that the planet-friendly tag will help him drum up corporate sponsors – and with costs of £3-£4m a year for five years, he needs all the help he can get in that respect. We’re starting to understand what it is that those Swiss Cup holders bring to the party – they may not exactly have saltwater in their veins, but there is plenty of money in Switzerland…
As students of yacht racing will know, in recent years the America’s Cup has been bedevilled by legal wrangling between title holder Alinghi and US challenger BMW Oracle. Delays to the 33rd Cup – originally due to take place last year – mean that it will not now take place before 2010, and Team Origin won’t get a crack at the title until the 34th Cup, no earlier than 2011. Still with us at the back? But since the last (unsuccessful) British challenger was way back in 1964, it’s well past time we had another go.
Sir Keith may also be keen to work on the project as a distraction from his own ongoing travails. Having trousered all that dosh from the LMG sale, he then lost £30m of it investing in now-defunct US insurer AIG. He’s suing his bank, Coutts, which he says advised him badly, but here at MT we can’t decide whether he’s got more chance of winning the lawsuit or the America’s Cup. Watch this space…
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