Olympic champions Scott and Ainslie eye maritime history at America's Cup
Sailing

Olympic champions Scott and Ainslie eye maritime history at America's Cup

26 May 2017 / 05:50
With pastel-coloured, white-roofed houses, overlooking pink sand beaches gently lapped by brilliant azure seas, there are few better holiday destinations than Bermuda.
 
But Giles Scott isn't idling in the sun, he's dreaming of making sporting history.
 

 
Scott has been living at full throttle ever since he struck Olympic sailing gold under the shadow of Sugar Loaf mountain on Guanabara Bay last August.
 
Mission accomplished, after a long and patient wait, his focus promptly switched and within days of leaving Rio he had joined up with Sir Ben Ainslie's America's Cup team for a regatta in Toulon.
 
Holidays are something other people do, while he seems a man for whom success needs a stunning vista to match.
 
"I didn't get any time off after Rio, I immediately switched focus to this and it's been non-stop really," said Scott.
 
"I'd never give up my Olympic gold medal but victory in the America's Cup would sit right alongside it.
 
"The Olympics was a solo effort for success and I could be quite selfish about it. The America's Cup is a massive team effort, from design to sport to engineering. It's a hugely complicated undertaking and to win it is a very big ask.
 
"Coming into the Olympics I felt pressure but it's different here. Rio was all about me but this is a team effort, we've got the pressure weighing equally on lots of people’s shoulders."
 
americascupainslieScott's eye for strategy helped make Ainslie's British boat the one to beat last year. Their victory in the World Series secured a two-point head start heading into three weeks of intensive match racing, which will ultimately decide who faces defending champion Oracle Team USA in the America's Cup match next month.
 
A British boat hasn't contested the main event since 1964 and Ainslie and his crew will face stiff competition from old hands New Zealand and Sweden, plus fellow start-up teams France and Japan and defending champions the USA.
 
Great Britain's Land Rover BAR challenge gets under way on Bermuda's Great Sound against Sweden's Artemis – whose campaign is masterminded by double British Olympic champion Iain Percy – on Saturday, after Friday's racing was postponed due to high winds.
 
After nine more head-to-head races, Jimmy Spithill's defending champions will progress straight to the final, while the top four teams will compete in best of nine race semi-finals and finals for the chance to contest the Auld Mug – the oldest prize in international sport – in late June.
 
This year's America's Cup will feature the smallest boats in the event’s history – 15 metre catamarans that fly off the water on foils and reach top speeds of 60mph.
 
It's a world removed from the schooner America, double the length and weighing in at 100 tonnes, who gave her name to the trophy after winning the first race around the Isle of Wight in 1851.
 
Great Britain haven't been in contention since 2003 when Ian Walker, a two-time Olympic silver medallist in Atlanta and Sydney, finished sixth from nine in the challenger races.
 
But this is certainly the best financed bid for decades
, with Ainslie hoping to go one better than two other knights, Sir Thomas Lipton – who lost five consecutive America's Cup matches in the early 20th century – and Sir Thomas Sopwith, a two-time losing finalist in the 1930s.
 
"I guess you could say this has become a life's obsession, it's very hard as a new team to come into the America's Cup and get into a dominant position," admits Ainslie, who predicts it's only a matter of time before a British boat wins, whatever happens in the days ahead.
 
"I'm confident that by the time we get racing that we'll be competitive and we might surprise a few people. Only once in history has a new team won the race but we're in this for the long haul.
 
"We're under no illusions what this would mean for our sporting and maritime history. Britain has won everything else in sport – apart from this. If we can change that it will be something really meaningful for our country."
Ainslie, wife Georgie and ten-month-old daughter Bellatrix have relocated their lives to the Caribbean, with the British team even bringing a schoolteacher across to work with the children of their 60-strong staff – such is their forensic attention to detail.
 
In a sport where fractions matter, Ainslie is two stone lighter than he was for his London 2012 campaign, indeed he weighs less than he did when he won the first of his Olympic medals – a silver medal as a 19-year-old at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

Ahead of their opening race Ainslie admits he and Percy – an Olympic team-mate in Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London – have not been quite so friendly in recent weeks but, should his team not deliver, there is no-one he'd like to win more.
 
Andrew Simpson, who tragically died during training for the last America's Cup in San Francisco, won Olympic gold with Percy in 2008 and remains an inspirational and much missed figure to British sailors in Bermuda, with his presence looming large over two boats. 
 
ainsliepercy
"Losing Andrew was an incredibly tough experience for all of us," adds Ainslie. "Andrew and Iain were like brothers and they were key part of that Artemis team.
 
"I've got lots of good mates in that team so, if we weren't able to get through, I would love for Artemis to win it. It would be an amazing story for them and our sport and Andrew would be incredibly proud."

By James Toney, Sportsbeat
 
Sportsbeat 2017 

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