Ainslie takes time out of his America's Cup campaign to sail at Skandia Cowes Week 30/7/06

Ben Ainslie flew in to Cowes from Valencia for a day taking time out of his America’s Cup campaign to compete at Skandia Cowes Week.

Ainslie who is currently deeply engrossed in the Emirates Team New Zealand America’s Cup campaign stepped aboard a Beneteau First 40.7 Lancelot joining the JP Morgan team in Class 3 IRC.

Chatting as he arrived on shore after today’s opening race Ainslie told that he is genuinely happy to have the opportunity to be in Cowes during his incredibly hectic and stressful schedule in Valencia.

Ainslie explained: “It was a really good day, totally different to being in Valencia which is really hard work. We’re doing a lot of testing and in-house racing, racing with other teams; there’s obviously a lot at stake and it’s a high intensity environment, whereas this enables a lot of fun.”

For his brief visit to Cowes Ainslie brought along top navigator Ian Moore to assist with the navigation adding: “I haven’t got a clue how to get round the Solent so I thought I’d bring in a bit of expert help.”

But how did Ainslie manage to escape from his duties in Valencia? Ainslie explained: “A bit tough because we only really get one day off a week. Today [Sunday] is our one day off this week, so I left at nine o’clock on Friday night and I fly back on Sunday morning and I’ll be sailing in Valencia again in the afternoon.”

Chatting about Emirate Team New Zealand’s recent Act 12 success – beating America’s Cup defenders Alinghi into overall first place – Ainslie praised the Kiwis commenting: “I think team Emirates New Zealand is a fantastic example of a team that can run an ACC campaign on the bare minimum and be successful. They are not one of the highest funded teams but one of the top teams.”

Interestingly although Ainslie is one of the key players as number 2 helmsman to Dean Barker within Emirates Team New Zealand he spends little time behind the wheel at the big events. He’s currently taking an ‘apprentice’ helmsman role and was delighted to be able to helm during the China Team match in Act 12. Happy with his current role Ainslie added: “Dean’s obviously been the skipper from the beginning of the campaign and is one of the top match racers out there and especially in America’s Cup boats. As for me I’m very much the rookie coming into it. My job always has been to press Dean and learn how to skipper an America’s Cup boat and it’s coming along really well.

“It is fantastic racing and we certainly push the boat hard. You ask anyone involved in the America’s Cup and they’d be lying if they didn’t say it was hard work. It can be a bit frustrating and even monotomous at times but it’s such a fascinating game. It probably helps us that we are doing okay and pushing along where we want to be and that certainly helps with motivation.”

Despite his involvement with, and clear focus on the America’s Cup Ainslie has not lost sight of his the sailing that is closest to his heart – the Olympics. Having won the Finn world and European championships last year Ainslie’s long-term plan is to complete the America’s Cup next year and then – just one week on – step back into his trusty Finn in an attempt to qualify for the Games in China.

Concluding, Ainslie said: “Qualification could be a slight issue however, because if Team New Zealand go all the way then it kind of clashes with the world championship in Cascias in Portugal, so I wouldn’t have any time to prepare at all. Bit of an issue for me but I will see what happens. My priority is focussing on the Cup and that’s what we all want to do – win that.”