Olympic champions Ainslie and Scott gear up for America's Cup challenge

Olympic champions Ainslie and Scott gear up for America's Cup challenge

18 May 2017 / 18:42

With a boat laden down by six Olympic golds, you'd expect the Pirates of the Caribbean to join the fleet chasing Sir Ben Ainslie at the America's Cup in Bermuda.

The most successful Olympic sailor of all-time, with four golds and one silver, is joined in his quest by strategist Giles Scott, who followed Ainslie's lead to win gold in Rio last summer, and Spanish sailor Xabier Fernandez, an Olympic champion in 2004.

But Ainslie and Scott know it won't be easy as they seek to end a 166-year wait for British success in sport's oldest international trophy.

Ainslie helped the multinational Team Oracle USA dramatically win the 'Auld Mug' in 2013 but this is a 'Made in Britain' challenge.

From sailing talent - 12 of the 15 strong squad are British - to sponsors to the all-important appliance of science, Ainslie isn't joking when he talks about winning for 'Queen and country'.

And the connection between skipper and strategist is a key one, with Ainslie providing the tactics to winning skipper Jimmy Spithill four years ago in San Francisco.

"The relationship between Giles and I is a growing partnership," he said.

"We've got lots of respect for each other and we get on really well off the water. The team cheered him on last year in his Olympic campaign, I know how much that means and how much he wanted that.

"Since he left Rio he has 100% focussed on achieving this and committed totally to the team and what we are trying to achieve.

"He's very level headed and a great personality. He's also incredibly fit and brings that work ethic to the team. For sure he's one of the fittest sailors in that position at this America's Cup, which will really benefit us because of how demanding these boats are to sail."
GilesScottAinslie admits his is locked in a race against time as he seeks to get his race boat performing at maximum speed before an opening race against former Olympic team-mate Iain Percy and his Swedish-backed Artemis crew.

He expects Land Rover BAR to improve as the event progresses with the first aim making the four team play-offs from which one boat will emerge to face American Defender Team Oracle USA in the best of 13 America's Cup match.

But he knows it won't be easy, with his start-up team against rivals who have been battle hardened through multiple campaigns. Team Oracle USA - backed by software billionaire Larry Ellison - had two cracks before they finally won in 2010.

History also underlines the task will be tough, with the last time a British boat reached the final over a half a century ago.

Ainslie's achievements are without parallel but guiding a British boat to victory would eclipse them all - he's already got a knighthood, they'd have to make him a Sea Lord.

The new look high-speed boats, which fly through the air at speeds of 40 knots, are a world removed from the schooners that competed in the first race around the Isle of Wight in the 19th century.

Sailing them requires a huge level of fitness but Ainslie, 40, is committed to cause.

"This is a tough sport, on and off the water - we've no more days off now, no more time out," added Ainslie.

"This whole project has massive levels of expectations and we are totally committed to bringing the Cup back home for the first time.

"We're in it to win this year in Bermuda but, if we don't, then we've built a team that isn't going anywhere and I know we'll get the job done in the future.

"This is my work now. I've no intention of this being my last America's Cup on the water, I think I've got one or two cycles in me yet. But it's not about me as a sailor, it's about building a sustainable British team to compete with the very best at the highest level."

By James Toney, Sportsbeat

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