Sir Ben Ainslie, who is leading the Ineos Team UK America’s Cup challenge, says it would be “crazy” not to explore how the yachting syndicate and the UCI WorldTour team now sponsored by the petrochemicals group could learn lessons from each other.
The four-time Olympic gold medallist sailor, writing in a column in the Sunday Telegraph, also spoke of Ineos founder and owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s management style, as well as insisting that the company is “part of the answer” to ocean pollution and wider environmental issues.
At the next America’s Cup in Auckland in 2021, pedal-power won’t feature following the outlawing of the controversial ‘pedalors’ that were used by Team New Zealand instead of the traditional hand-winched grinders to trim sails as they won the trophy in Bermuda in 2017.
However, Ainslie said that talks were already underway with the cycling team run by Sir Dave Brailsford about the lessons the could learn from their respective sports.
“It is interesting, actually, being part of the larger family of Ineos sporting properties. No doubt there are potential synergies between all of us and it would be foolish not to explore them," the 42-year-old said.
"We have had discussions about it already. Team Sky – or Team INEOS as they are now – are the world's most successful cycling team. We are not arrogant enough to presume we have nothing to learn from them.
"Similarly, we have many brilliant engineers, tacticians and athletes and I am sure they can learn from us. No doubt we will be catching up and sharing ideas and strategies. We would both be crazy not to take that opportunity."
He said that Ratcliffe – Britain’s wealthiest man, although he has recently moved domicile to Monaaco – was a hands-off team owner.
“He backs us, but very much allows us to run the team as we see fit,” Ainslie explained. “Jim likes to win. He is massively competitive. He gives it everything, but he understands sport and the need for total preparation. We very much share that determination to be the best and, on a selfish note, I can see many intriguing possibilities for us as a result of this [Team Sky] takeover."
Team Ineos was officially launched at the start of the month on the eve of the Tour de Yorkshire, but during the race, where it won the overall through Chris Lawless, it was met with protests from anti-fracking campaigners.
The announcement earlier this year that Ratcliffe was buying Team Sky’s management company with Ineos taking over sponsorship was met with concern by environmental campaigners, with many pointing out that during the Tour de France last year Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome and their team-mates rode with jerseys promoting Sky Ocen Rescue, the broadcaster’s campaign to rid the world’s oceans of plastic waste.
"I totally get the criticism," said Ainslie. "We have never shied away from it. Especially in the wake of the Extinction Rebellion movement and the recent protests in London. It is a very hot topic right now, and rightly so.
"We care deeply about cleaning up our oceans, finding solutions to environmental threats. We are still absolutely committed to these issues.”
Defending Ineos and Ratcliffe, he continued: "What I would say, though, is that there are lots of valid concerns, but not many solutions.
"Ineos is one of the few companies with the resources and the reach to actually effect serious change. It is a major part of the answer.
"And I know first-hand, from the discussions we have had, that Jim and his team are very serious about it and have set themselves some pretty lofty targets," he added.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.