Always Sunny in Ainslie Land
Published on July 26th, 2016
Beginning in 1996, Sir Ben Ainslie has always competed at the Summer Olympics. Five Games. Five medals. But not this summer. The most successful sailor in Olympic history tapped out after London 2012.
So while many Olympians are now readying themselves for the 2016 Games, hoping to stand on the podium just once, Ben is elsewhere, as he claims, having just completed the most amazing week of his life. Ouch!
Is there ever cloud cover for this guy? Should they just hand him now the America’s Cup trophy? In The Telegraph, here are his words….
I may have entered a world of sleepless nights and dirty nappies, but I have already discovered one additional benefit to being a Dad: no more hangovers. I was home by 9pm on Sunday night after our fantastic win in the Portsmouth round of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series last weekend (July 22-24).
I think a few of the guys had pretty sore heads on Monday morning. They deserved to enjoy themselves. The whole team performed absolutely brilliantly and I could not be more proud of the effort we put in in front of such large crowds on home waters.
I’m not sure of the exact figures but I have certainly never seen crowds like that at a sailing event. When we docked to go to the event village, or to the victory ceremony, the atmosphere was sensational. I believe there were around 150,000 fans on the shoreline and 6000 boats viewing from the water over the course of the race weekend.
It was the most amazing week of my life, no question. Or rather the most amazing eight days of my life – the period of time between my baby daughter Bellatrix being born, on Saturday July 16, and Land Rover BAR defending our Portsmouth title on Sunday.
It was a crazy week, magical. I spent from Saturday until Wednesday holed up with Georgie and Bellatrix, went out on the boat on Thursday, did some practice racing Friday and then we were straight into the regatta.
The weather played ball, with good foiling conditions on Sunday in particular – a relief after the heavy winds which forced the cancellation of Sunday’s race programme last year – and the event ran flawlessly.
We were tied for the lead with the French team Groupama overnight on the Saturday, took the regatta lead outright with a dominant victory in the first race on Super Sunday and then managed to hold off a strong challenge from the Americans in the final two races. Although they won them both, we knew second would be good enough to win the regatta.
The win also moved us to the top of the World Series standings after seven rounds, which was another fantastic achievement and potentially valuable, too, with the top two teams carrying points through to next May’s challenger series where one team will earn the right to challenge Oracle Team USA.
I cannot tell you how proud I am of the team that we have got as far as we have in the space of time we have had. It is incredible to think that two years ago Land Rover BAR did not really exist. Now we are beating established teams, we have an incredible state-of-the-art base in Portsmouth and a quarter of a million people turning out to cheer us on at our home regatta.
Knowing that the Duke and Duchess off Cambridge were there, too, and that Georgie and Bellatrix were watching on at home – even if Bellatrix slept through the entire event – makes me incredibly proud.
It was an incredible atmosphere and one can imagine what it would be like if we were able to win the actual America’s Cup next June in Bermuda and brought it home to Great Britain for the first time since 1851.
To do that we are going to have to keep working incredibly hard. That talent on all of the other teams is really strong and as a new team we are still playing catch up in many areas. Right now we are in the middle of a really busy phase of design and development, with our shore team and our engineers working overtime. And then we are out on the water two-boat testing. That is where the signings of Leigh McMillan and Xabi Fernandez are starting to pay off. We took our time recruiting both but we are really happy with what they are bringing to the team.
We are already on to our fourth testing boat – T4 – our final one before the actual race boat is launched this winter. And in terms of where we stand overall we are pretty confident we are in the same ballpark as the likes of Oracle.
That is not just guesswork. This being the America’s Cup, there is definitely an element of Big Brother going on, with all the teams doing their homework on each other.
The World Series provides a rich seam of information. I noticed Jimmy Spithill, the Oracle skipper, say the other day that they check out everyone else’s boats, using the on-board feed and listening to all the team’s live TV comms to try to work out where they can get an edge. We are the same, replaying the races afterwards to see if we can glean anything useful.
The most important thing, however, is not to lose sight of one’s own programme. You could spend ages obsessing over your rivals, or devising codes or giving out misinformation to throw each other off the scent, but I always think that it is better just to concentrate on your own game. It is always better to come up with an idea yourself and develop it, if you can, than it is to copy someone else’s.
These next 12 months are going to be massive. But first I plan to take a few days off with Georgie and the baby.
After our first week together was slightly curtailed by events beyond our control we are going to take a few days now, with our parents over on the Isle of Wight at the moment, to enjoy being new parents. Then it is back to the grindstone.