Ben Ainslie in Olympic Qualifying Bind

by GJN 
Ben Ainslie at Finn Gold Cup Moscow
Ben Ainslie, Britain’s treble Olympic medallist, admitted in a recent interview, that if London had not won the Games for 2012, he would - 'have knocked the Olympics on the head and concentrated on the bigger boats'.

In fact Ainslie’s involvement in the America’s Cup taking place in Valencia this summer will make it difficult for him to qualify for the Beijing Games in 2008.

The International Sailing Federation World Championships taking place in Cascais, Portugal has the first Finn race on 5 July. This will clash with the final rounds of the America’s Cup racing, which take place between 23 June and 7 July.

Depending on how the team he is contracted to, Team New Zealand, fare in the qualifying Luis Vuitton Cup series, he could be involved in the final race series and if that went to the full nine races, he would not be able to attend the world championships in Portugal.

This could present the Royal Yachting Association with a difficult decision if one of Team GBR were to win in Portugal. Arch rival for the Olympic spot, Ed Wright is in third place in the ISAF Finn rankings, and will be hoping to clinch the berth with a good result in the World Championships.

Ainslie has hardly raced in the Finn class in the last two years due to his commitment to Team New Zealand and the long series of qualifying races and match racing tournaments. But, he did make a return for the Olympic test event in Qingdao last August and was an overwhelming winner, despite lack of boat practice.

Ainslie has a fantastic record in the Finn class, but for openness it could mean that the RYA will have to announce a race-off for the GBR Finn slot at a later event if circumstances prevent Ainslie competing.

Meanwhile, the America´s Cup teams will recommence racing on the 3 April with Act 13 of the Louis Vuitton Cup. This is a fleet racing event of seven races over four days, and the last chance to see the Defender, Alinghi, in action with the challengers.

After the fleet races the challenger fleet will take part in a final round-robin series to choose the semi-finalists, with the challenger finals taking place between June 1 to 12.

The winning challenger will then sail in the 32nd America’s Cup series against the holder, Alinghi, in a first to win 5 race series.

Read the Ainslie interview by Gideon Brooks/Daily Express here: