Ben Ainslie would like to win the America’s Cup for Britain. Despite 21 past British challenges, 167 years has passed and Britain has still not won the trophy. But if Ainslie is successful in toppling the kiwi defenders, there is a segment of his nation that won’t be attending the parade.
After his previous campaign for the 35th America’s Cup had promoted a pronounced message of environmental responsibility, Ainslie has changed course in this campaign by notably accepting significant financial support from INEOS, a privately owned chemicals giant owned by Jim Ratcliffe.
Ainslie, the most successful sailor in Olympic history, who helped the Americans win the 2013 America’s Cup, is among his country’s most adored athletes. But by taking the INEOS money, he is now jeopardizing his good name and well-earned global reputation as an eco-athlete.
A group of campaigners and academics has called on World Sailing to oppose INEOS’ sponsorship of the UK’s America’s Cup team due to the company’s fracking activity. An open letter to World Sailingsays the sponsorship deal goes against the “environmentally aware behaviour” that organsiation “claims to embody and promote”.
INEOS describes itself as “the biggest player in the UK shale gas industry”. It has licenses to explore for shale gas that cover more than one million acres of the UK. As the letter states, “Fracking – otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing – involves injecting large amounts of water and sand, combined with hazardous chemicals, into rock formations to fracture surrounding material for the purpose of extracting oil and gas.
“The gathered scientific evidence shows that fracking’s detrimental environmental and public health dangers are numerous and significant. As a brief overview, these include polluted groundwater, large volume water use, greenhouse gas emissions (leading to increased air pollution and climate change exacerbation), exposure to toxic chemicals, and fracking-induced earthquakes.”
In response, World Sailing chief executive Andy Hunt said although the governing body had not yet given official sanction to the America’s Cup event, they expected to do so “in due course”.
Hunt said while racing boat advertising must comply with World Sailing’s advertising code and meet generally accepted moral and ethical standards, it “does not sanction or otherwise approve sponsorship of competitors or teams”.
“World Sailing has laid out its own ambitious commitment to help create a better world through sport through Sustainability Agenda 2030 and we have no reason to believe that the 36th America’s Cup will not comply with World Sailing policy.”
Key America’s Cup dates:
September 28, 2017: 36th America’s Cup Protocol released
November 30, 2017: AC75 Class concepts released to key stakeholders
January 1, 2018: Entries for Challengers open
March 31, 2018: AC75 Class Rule published
June 30, 2018: Entries for Challengers close
August 31, 2018: Location of the America’s Cup Match and The PRADA Cup confirmed
August 31, 2018: Specific race course area confirmed
December 31, 2018: Late entries deadline
March 31, 2019: Boat 1 can be launched
2nd half of 2019: 2 x America’s Cup World Series Preliminary Events
February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched
During 2020: 3 x America’s Cup World Series Preliminary Events
December 10-20, 2020: America’s Cup Christmas Race
January and February 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
March 2021: The America’s Cup Match