Ben Ainslie: Eager to bring the America’s Cup home
Published on February 29th, 2016
Land Rover BAR may be the most compelling team in the 35th America’s Cup. Led by Britain’s Ben Ainslie, the most successful sailor in Olympic history, he is eager to bring the Cup home to the Queen’s turf.
British pride extends beyond the flag on their sail… it is in the blood of his crew. Following his team’s win at the America’s Cup World Series in Oman, Ben provides an update in the British newspaper, The Telegraph …
I could not have asked for a better start to what promises to be a hugely enjoyable year on both a personal and a professional level.
Firstly, I have some exciting news. My wife Georgie and I are expecting our first child this summer. It is a big moment for us both and we could not be happier.
In terms of the America’s Cup our victory in the Louis Vuitton World Series event in Oman last weekend was immensely satisfying, not only for the guys out in Muscat but also the workforce back in Portsmouth who have worked so hard over the winter.
As a new team, I genuinely think these victories mean more to us. We want to prove ourselves, to show our fans that we belong on sailing’s biggest stage, alongside the Oracle Team USAs and Emirates Team New Zealands of this world.
I hope we made the guys back home proud over the weekend. We really dug deep for that win and it was a great feeling on board at the end of the last race on Sunday.
From here on in, though, 2016 is only going to get bigger. One of our team members, Giles Scott, will be going for Finn gold in Brazil this summer. From a British perspective, we want all of our Olympic sailors to strike gold in Rio. But I think it is fair to say that we – and I – have a particular interest in Giles’s campaign since we have had that medal in British hands since 2000 when Iain Percy first won it.
There is no doubt Giles is capable of maintaining that run. As he proved again in Oman, when he made a series of brilliant tactical calls on board our AC45F, he is a hugely talented sailor and one we are delighted to have at Land Rover BAR.
We will undoubtedly miss him in New York, Chicago and Portsmouth, the next three rounds of the ACWS. The relationship between helmsman and tactician is crucial and Giles and I are really starting to develop ours on a tactical and a personal front, which is important as it is not always easy under highly stressful racing.
It was not always as relaxed between myself and Giles. In the run-up to the 2012 Games it got fairly tense, which I guess was inevitable as we were competing for that one Olympic spot. But it was always underpinned by a good healthy respect for one other.
Away from Brazil, it is going to be a big year for the team. In the ACWS, we have, as I mentioned, got events in New York, Chicago and our home round in Portsmouth all coming up before the end of July. There is then a round in Toulon, and possibly one in Japan towards the end of the year.
After the win in Oman, we really want to keep that momentum going. The boats may not be exactly the same as the ones we are developing in private – in the ACWS the teams use identical foiling catamarans – but points for the top two positions in the ACWS do count towards the final America’s Cup qualifying series next summer in Bermuda.
Plus, it is valuable time spent together on the water in a competitive environment. We are learning all the time out there and improving as a team, not just on the boat but off it.
Last weekend the input of our coaches Rob Wilson and Luc du Bois was critical to our success. They really helped us with the set-up of the code zero sail, getting the right angles and knowing when and how best to deploy it.
The clock is ticking as far as Bermuda 2017 is concerned. This May will mark the 12-month countdown to the 35th America’s Cup and we are all systems go. Our second testing boat – T2 – which we damaged towards the end of last year, is back in the water and happily we have enjoyed some really decent sailing conditions down in Portsmouth.
Some people thought we might have been handicapped by not being based out in Bermuda but, ironically, they have actually been unable to sail for much of the winter because of the stormy weather.
We are also pushing ahead with our Land Rover BAR Academy programme. We have had more than 70 applications and they are still coming. I am hugely excited about it.
I believe it is the first of its kind, offering young sailors in the UK a real performance pathway to America’s Cup racing. This year we are offering our academy sailors the opportunity to sail in the Extreme Sailing Series, giving them the chance to learn about foiling multihulls and about the America’s Cup in general, with a view to competing in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup next year. They will have access to our gym, our fitness trainers.
The plan is to grow the academy to around 16 young sailors, with some of them hopefully going on to represent the senior squad in future America’s Cup editions. With these boats now, I don’t think you need to have spent years sailing big boats. It is a very different approach to big keelboats. Most of the America’s Cup sailors now have dinghy or Olympic backgrounds.
Source: The Telegraph