Could Ainslie’s new project be the smartest deal in the America’s Cup?
The announcement that Ainslie has a foot in the America’s Cup door is clearly good news for a skipper who had the rug pulled out from under his feet when Team Origin withdrew from the 34th America’s Cup. Yet Ainslie’s new tactic is an innovative and intriguing one.
Sailing under a British flag and representing the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) will compete in the 2012/13 America’s Cup World Series which starts after the Olympics. While the sailing team has yet to be announced, the campaign will clearly provide Ainslie and Co with valuable cat/wing experience. Although he has only sailed these boats once before on a day trip in San Francisco, Ainslie demonstrated earlier this year how quickly he can pick up a new style of sailing with his impressive performance in the Extreme 40 racing.
By mid 2013, when the AC World Series finishes, he will then step across to Oracle where he will be a part of the Defender’s team, racing aboard the new 72ft wing masted cats. Even the most experienced AC45 sailors are concerned at how big a step this will be, learning with the undoubted experts should provide an invaluable leg up for Ainslie in his quest to drive a campaign for the following (35th) America’s Cup, assuming that is that someone else doesn’t win the Cup and revert back to monohulls.
According to Russell Coutts, Ainslie’s campaign is fully underwritten and while the Oracle head honcho stopped short of telling us who by, the rumours that it is Oracle seemed to be supported by Coutts’ comments that it took, pretty detailed negotiations’ to get Ainslie into the game.
Coutts also went on to say why he was so keen to get the Olympic sailor into the team come 2013.
“I’d rather be sailing with Ben than against him,” he said. A suggestion perhaps that the move by Oracle would ensure that Ainslie couldn’t pop up somewhere else.
But there are perhaps other reasons why Oracle would want him in the game and in their camp.
A successful result in Weymouth this year would make Ainslie the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. For the new style America’s Cup that is trying to secure the attention of the UK and European media, pulling in someone of this stature could surely make Cup coverage a more enticing proposition.
For the UK, the announcement is good news too in that it just might help the cause when it comes to attracting a Cup event to British shores again. Even if the economics of hosting the event were in question, the Plymouth leg of the AC World Series was a big success when it came to drawing in the crowds, an impressive first step.
But not everyone will be happy. For existing Challengers the new deal could bring a Challenger and Defender very close together and may risk falling foul of some of the rules that are designed to prevent such close co-operation. It seems unlikely that this new arrangement will go unquestioned.
Whatever your viewpoint, it would seem that this new approach is one of the most innovative approaches we’ve seen so far in the America’s Cup