Top international yachting correspondent, Stuart Alexander, writing in the The Independent (UK) takes a look behind the newly announced Ben Ainslie Racing team pitched at the America's Cup World Series. The new team will sail under the burgee of an English yacht club, but will enjoy the patronage of the US Defence team.
Britain’s triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie will be helping the Americans to defend the America’s Cup next year in a strange hybrid deal announced today at London’s Festival Hall.
In a move which seems to have him riding two horses at once, he will be contesting the America’s Cup World Series representing the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club but is being welcomed into the San Francisco-based Oracle defence team and saying he hopes Oracle will win the cup.
How he would vote in the competitor forum, which includes teams from France, China, Korea, Spain, Italy and New Zealand, is unclear, as is whether he intends to pay the $200,000 entry fee that would give him a full vote at the America’s Cup table.
The 34th America’s Cup, which started with a yacht of that name beating the best of Britain in a race around the Isle of Wight in 1851, will be staged in San Francisco next year, But Ainslie, who has long wanted a campaign of his own and had seemed to be on his way with Sir Keith Mills’ Origin team, will have to wait under the terms of the deal struck with the man appointed to run the next cup, Kiwi Sir Russell Coutts.
Coutts has welcomed him, expensively, into the Oracle fold with the creation of Ben Ainslie Racing, which should make its debut in San Francisco in September in a 45-foot, wing-powered catamaran of the kind used in a series of exhibition regattas.The extent of the funding from Oracle is unclear and it is said that Ainslie will be paying his own bills.
Until September, Ainslie has been picked to represent Britain at the Olympic sailing regatta in Weymouth. A win there would give him a fourth consecutive gold medal to add to his silver in Savannah in 1996.
Before that he faces a tribunal hearing into being disqualified from the last races of a world championship in Fremantle last month for leaping from his Finn singlehanded dinghy onto a television boat to remonstrate with the driver. A jury at the time said there were mitigating circumstances and the British tribunal being convened by the Royal Yachting Association is expected to say that the disqualification was punishment enough.