Ben Ainslie talks to Matt Sheahan about his prospects for the America’s Cup and the possibility of a British team
The rumours have been doing the rounds for months, could there yet be a British team in the next America’s Cup? Ben Ainslie thinks so.
With his place at the 2012 Games now assured and with a change in the America’s Cup Protocol that sees the AC World Series in 45 foot wing masted cats now extending into 2013, the opportunity for the former Team Origin skipper to participate in the 34th America’s Cup now looks more feasible.
Joining the Oman Sail team for three Extreme 40 events has helped to fuel speculation that Ben Ainslie was planning a move back into the Cup after the collapse of Team Origin. To add more credence to the notion, Ainslie and his team made an immediate impact from the start making the podium on his first attempt and scoring another third place in his third event. Ainslie is clearly a quick learner, but was his experience relevant to a future Cup campaign?
“Having developed some new skills racing on the Extreme 40, if after the Games there’s an opportunity to get involved with the AC45s,
I’ll have a better idea of what I’m taking on,” he told me.
So is it possible that he would be involved in the 34th America’s Cup?
“Yes, I think so,” he replied.
Yet he is quick to dismiss the idea of him appearing on the AC World Series with the Oman Air team.
“I haven’t spoken to them [Oman Air] about it. I don’t know if it is something they are looking at. They are a great team and could no doubt get into it,” he said.
But what about the prospects of a British team?
“For the Cup itself? I’d be very surprised,” he said. “But for the AC World Series, possibly. There’s definitely potential there for a British 45 and maybe build that into a Cup team.
“Potentially a 45 campaign is an opportunity to build something up. Have a presence with a team in place so you can go to someone with a team in mind rather than simply turning up cap in hand. So what had changed his mind?
“I guess in my own world I’ve had a lot on in the last eight months focussing on qualifying for the Games. But I’ve been very impressed with the events so far and think it definitely has legs. The racing in Plymouth was the best racing I’ve watched. It was a true spectacle.”
As the flag bearer for the British Olympic team and with the prospect of a further medal making him the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, there will certainly be plenty of pressure on Ainslie during the next 10 months. But pressure is what he does best, along with planning and timing. Maybe others have seen an opportunity to hitch a ride with the current media interest in Britain’s most successful Olympic sailor.