Ben Ainslie: Finding the Right Balance
Published on June 13th, 2016
When the America’s Cup World Series came to New York City on May 6-8, the locals embraced the event and the nation’s largest media market shared the stories. But when ferry traffic constrained the course to an area of the Hudson River hardly befitting the oldest international trophy in sport, questions came about the integrity of the game.
Most vocal at the time was Land Rover BAR skipper Ben Ainslie, who found the racing was “about as frustrating as it gets.” While the odds were good in New York that the sailing would be suspect, there was far more optimism for the Chicago event on June 10-12.
However, Mother Nature is nobody’s servant, and when the offshore winds on day one and two had to first navigate the significant downtown skyline of the third-largest city in the United States, quality sailing conditions suffered.
With the event now desperate for races on day three, and a full paying crowd on hand to witness the event, a handy northerly finally offered the teams with a suitable test. Here’s what Ainslie shared with Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck on the topic of race venues…
“The America’s Cup World Series has incurred some days with less than stellar winds, but when we get the right conditions we are able to showcase what the sport is all about. The course location alongside Navy Pier, bringing the spectators so close, yet have the strong, steady winds, proved to be a brilliant combination.
“It’s important that our competitions have that kind of balance. I think that when spectators are watching a sport, they need to know that the game has integrity. In these World Series events, we are developing something that has huge commercial potential, but as sailors, we need to keep pushing for this balance.
“It is a credit to Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts (Oracle Team USA owner and CEO)as they are involving all of the teams in the event discussions now so that we can all take some responsibility in how they turn out and contribute in the process to improve them.
“It is important that we find the right balance in positioning the course close to the commercial component of spectators and sponsors while also keeping the race course conditions steady and fair for competition.”