A new way of water for Rossiter as America's Cup awaits

Matt Rossiter is gonna need a bigger boat.

The Tokyo Olympian has taken ‘new year, new me’ to another level by trading rowing’s silky shells for the futuristic galleons that set sail for the America’s Cup.

Rossiter has stepped away from the British rowing team to join Sir Ben Ainslie’s INEOS Britannia as a cyclor on their campaign for the 38th America’s Cup.

He said: “I’ve got this drive to keep being better and I really want to squeeze every last ounce of ability out of my body.

“I want to sit in my rocking chair when I’m old and know I did everything I could.”

His Olympic itch broke out aged seven when he watched Atlanta 1996 and committed to a notebook his plans to compete at the Games one day.

It took a while to scratch as debilitating back issues put London 2012 off limits and then he missed out on selection for Rio 2016.

When he did get there in 2021, that age-old itch was both relieved and irritated as the man making the calls in the British men’s four that finished fourth.

Returning home ‘for a cry’ with partner Polly Swann, who also finished fourth in the women’s pair in Tokyo, he found perspective in an unlikely place - his friend’s wedding speech.

“We went to the wedding a few days after coming home and I was still upset at that point,” he said.

“Rupert talked about me in his speech and said ‘there’s someone very special here who’s just gone to the Olympics.'

“All that night people came up to me and said, ‘we’ve never met an Olympian, coming fourth is amazing’ and it helped me realise what we achieved was pretty awesome.

“I’m getting more and more proud of just making it there. Ollie Cook and I rowed together at school and if you told those lads they’d row together at the Olympics, it is incredible.”

Rossiter’s rowing swansong came in 2022 as he combined with close friend Jacob Dawson, Olympic bronze medallist in the men’s eight, for summer racing and the World Rowing Coastal Championships.

He also worked closely with Dutch cycling coach Mehdi Kordi who was crucial in cultivating his drive to remain in elite sport.

Last year Olympic champion Matt Gotrel, gold medallist in the British men’s eight at Rio 2016, reached out to Rossiter as an INEOS team member and brokered the move.

Rossiter is now a cyclor, one of a team of eight who allow Ainslie’s boat to sail by pedalling to force pressure into a hydraulic tank, with sailors then using a Gameboy-like device to steer the boat.

The chance to work with four-time Olympic champion Ainslie was an obvious draw.

He said: “Working for Ben is so exciting because I was a massive fanboy of his.

“He is a fierce competitor, and it means a lot to be team-mates with someone who has achieved so much and knows what it takes to win - really win.

“Ben is an authentic, natural leader. He won’t raise his voice, he’s very calm but instils you with complete confidence and authority.”

Ainslie said: "it’s great to have Matt joining the team, he is someone who knows how to train and operate at such a high level.

“We need cyclors that can operate in a team environment, as well as having the grit and the determination to lay down the power needed to get the boat around the track.”

He’s already been on a tough INEOS Grenadiers training camp in Majorca - and another one awaits before the month is out.

Rossiter’s next confirmed race isn’t until the autumn of 2024, a far cry from the treadmill of regatta racing, and rowing’s collectivism still tugs at the heartstrings.

He said: “It’s possible that the training is harder than rowing! It’s ridiculous. It’s certainly different.

“What’s hard for me is not always having the team stuff, that’s the biggest adjustment. I enjoyed rowing but I really loved having breakfast with the lads after training.

“That’s the thing I’ll miss but I’m genuinely really excited about this new challenge.

“I have no idea what the next two years look like and in a way that’s quite nerve-wracking but also unbelievably exciting.

“To find new levels of fitness that I never knew I had, move to Barcelona, learn about sailing boats and hang out with some, like, awesome people.”

Sportsbeat 2023