Could Oracle be where Ainslie’s off to next after the Olympics?
“Right idea, wrong team,” I was told several months ago by an insider as I discussed whether and where Ben Ainslie would pop up with Oman Sail in the next America’s Cup.
A recent chat with Ben had confirmed that he was keen to be sailing in the 34th America’s Cup but he was tight lipped about who that might be with. But there was certainly something going on.
Now, after months of wondering and scratching around I think I have it. In the absence of a British team, what would suit one of the biggest names in Olympic sailing?
After he signed with Oman Sail for part of the Extreme 40 series there was plenty of speculation that a Middle East sponsored team might be Ainslie’s new ride. But a bit of digging around proved that this rumour was simply that, speculation with little substance.
How about Emirates Team New Zealand then? Having been their ‘B’ driver in the 32nd America’s Cup the team knows he can deliver, but Dean Barker has proved time and again in both the Cup in Valencia and in the Americas Cup World Series that he’s perfectly capable of taking the game to the current America’s Cup helmsman James Spithill.
So how about Artemis? His close friend Iain Percy is there already, which doesn’t rule Ainslie out as the pair would make a powerful combo, but this team already has a great deal of firepower.
From there on, most of the other available teams are struggling for money. Team Korea has already let Chris Draper go as the team faces an uncertain future.
But there is one team that has the funds and has plenty of incentive to hire the world’s top talent as the Challengers start to demonstrate how quickly they can pick up cat sailing with a wing.
Oracle, the Defenders.
Spithill is clearly ‘the man’ when it comes to multihulls, wing masts and the silverware that goes with them. But if you wanted to pick a man who has already demonstrated his skills in the Extreme 40 class with little or no practice, it’s Ben.
Having just come back from a disastrous ISAF Worlds in Perth I’d love to see his boarding card stubs for his trip home. A return route via the West coast of the USA would make a convenient stop to check in with the team while all eyes were still on Perth.
Having worked with the top Challengers (excluding the Deed of Gift Match), being a part of the Defender’s team would place another major tick in the box for Ainslie’s long term plan to lead a British Challenge.