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America's Cup- Jobson goes one on one with Ainslie (Part 2)

by ISAF Media on 22 Jan 2014
Oracle Team USA celebrates Guilain Grenier Oracle Team USA © http://www.oracleteamusamedia.com/
ISAF Vice-President Gary Jobson sat down previously with Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill. He now continues in his series of interviews with Ben Ainslie who was drafted in to replace John Kostecki mid-way through the 34th America's Cup on-board Oracle Team USA and played a key part in one of the finest sporting comebacks of all time.

Jobson sat down with Ainslie at the end of 2013 to find out a little bit more about the British sailor in Part 2 of 3...Miss Part 1? Click here. The three part series will be published on the ISAF website, www.sailing.org in the coming days.

Gary Jobson

'So I got to spend a day on USA17 with Jimmy Spithill and the team. I have to tell you Ben, this was the first time in my entire sailing career I did not volunteer when I got on the boat to steer. At one point John Kostecki, I was between Slingsby and Kostecki back there, and about a third of the way through Kostecki whispers to me, Jimmy Spithill is fearless. The fastest I was sailing that day was 41.2 knots up on the foils. That's pretty exciting coming in the leeward mark. But now you'd raced against Spithill so you got to know how he is to race against, and then, of course, you had this unbelievable turnaround. Is Jimmy Spithill fearless?'

Ben Ainslie

'I'd say so. We all saw what he was like in the press conference. You guys all had a good crack at him. You certainly gave him a hard time and he came through that pretty much unscathed. Yes, he's one of these guys, he's a machine. He's emotionless, for lack of a better word.'

Jobson

'I described him one day. I think the score was something like 7-0. You got up to zero, that was interesting in itself.'

Ainslie

'Got ourselves out of minus figures.'

Jobson

'I was just so glad the record books would never have an asterisk there. So you're kind of down and I'm watching Spithill come down the walkway there on the promenade and he just looked like Popeye having just eaten a can of spinach coming to the press conference. I was sitting there thinking, for those of you who have been around a little while, that either this guy is going to be the next Joe Namath who guaranteed victory in the Super Bowl and delivered or he's going to look like Y.A. Tittle on his knees in the end zone with blood coming down his face. There's no halfway there. And when he said, 'we can win races. I keep telling you guys we can win races. You'll see. And we got some big changes.' I'm looking over at Dean Barker, not at Spithill, and Barker is kind of twitching a little bit there. So my question to you Sir Ben, what kind of psychology was going on there at those press conferences?'

Ainslie

'Unless there were some big changes that I didn't know about I think he was pulling everyone's leg. He certainly did a good job of that. It was impressive because you're right, I think he certainly got the Kiwis guessing about what was going on and you hear all the stories about flying in boat builders from around the world and all that stuff which is complete nonsense. I think it worked. Maybe it worked. I don't know, what do you think?'

Jobson

'I thought it was brilliant. Like I said, I was with him last week. He said he thought my comments were okay. He thought they were fair.'

Ainslie

'He was just being nice. It's not what he said to me.'


Jobson

'It was the tactician I was picking on more though. The pressure is on here. The pressure was on and being down 8-1 was pretty daunting. But you started to go fast and you were making good calls. What was in your mind day after day? It stretched on for a week just trying to get one more race and one little thing and the gods were with you a little bit. Here New Zealand is ahead. They're two minutes from the finish line and the time limit runs out. They're in the lead and the wind goes over the limit. So did you feel like you had some destiny or what was the attitude on the boat when you were down? Was it just to chip away at that lead?'

Ainslie

'You're right. The race that the Kiwis failed to reach the time limit that was obviously very tough for them. I guess in the end it was potentially a little bit of karma. As we talked about earlier, we went into the event on minus two points for something which involved a different class of boat, although it was involved with the America's Cup it was something which was basically a complete balls up. It was just the lack of communication and a real honest mistake. We obviously got punished very hard for that. An example was made of the team because that's not right that something should be wrong with a measurement of the boats but at the same time it was a very harsh penalty. And so maybe that was things just being evened out a little bit. But I certainly felt for the Kiwis. I sailed with Team New Zealand for the 2007 America's Cup. I know the guys really well, Dean and Ray and the rest of the guys. They're all brilliant guys, great sailors. That was a really tough situation for them to go through.'

Jobson

'Well the fact that you do know Dean Barker and Ray Davies and sailed with them on their team, was that a help to you when you were out having to match wits against them?'

Ainslie

'I think so in some ways. I think the hardest part for those guys was the fact that they had an entire nation was waiting in the wings for them to bring the America's Cup home. The fact that they were 8-1 up and I don't know if it is true or not, there are stories of having jets waiting on the tarmac and parties being ordered and all the rest of that. That level of expectation. I've experienced that myself and I can tell you it is not much fun to be dealing with that. The more and more that our team got better and faster, that must have been very, very tough to deal with.'


Jobson

'They're jibing better, they're tacking better, they're going faster upwind, it's about even downwind so it must have been quite a mind bender when you started being even and then maybe a little faster and tacking better than that. You were on the boat when they almost capsized. What were you thinking at that moment? You might recall it was Race 8 where on the third leg New Zealand came to tack to leeward and ahead, I'm not sure that was the right move but that's what they did, and they got to 43.8 degrees, almost capsized. I was six lengths away holding my breath oh please, don't let the America's Cup end this way. What were you thinking at that time?'

Ainslie

'I think you're right. That was a real game changer. For most of us on the boat that was the first race where we actually started being competitive upwind. We actually caught them up on that upwind leg. For whatever reason they had a bad tack, whether it was because they were rushed or they had an issue mechanically with their hydraulics system to invert the wing or change the camber of the wing from tack to tack and that's what really put them in that difficult position. But certainly for us, that situation there gave us the belief that we could, we certainly had a race on our hands. We could match them upwind and if we sailed well then we could beat them. For our whole team that was a massive boost.'

Jobson

'Ben I'm sure you appreciate that you've done some amazing things in the sport of sailing. And I'd like to encourage you to write your memoirs soon while it is all fresh in your head about how you've won these medals, what was going on, what it was like to sail in the America's Cup so it becomes a very important part of history. So I hope you'll take that challenge. What do you think? (Applause) So if you were to write a book, what would some of the things that you would write down on a piece of paper that would be special that you would like people to know? And think about the young people that would read it or the people 50 years from now. Give me an example of what would be in your head?'

Ainslie

'First I think it is very dangerous once you're still competing to be writing memoirs. I think clearly this America's Cup has been the most amazing sailing race we've seen in many years if not ever. The boats, the action, the comeback, everything. You couldn't write a better script. I hope that we see some great documentaries and great written documentaries as well of this period. And certainly, the other thing for me which has been amazing has been the Olympics. Having the Olympic Games at home in London 2012 as an Olympian to compete on home waters is nothing prouder than that moment. I can tell you it was incredible. I've been very fortunate to have been in some great positions but I think certainly this last period to do something with a team, with a group of guys to come through such a difficult situation, that was very special. I'm sure it will be written about for many years to come.'


Jobson

'Well you might not publish your memoirs right away but I would encourage you to get it down on paper, work with somebody, put it in the drawer there for 10 or 20 years, but at least you'll have your thinking at this time. I think it would be really good. So the Olympic Games, like I said, I was there in London, in Weymouth, and you were in the news like crazy. You're one of the Super Stars of Great Britain, not only around the world, how did you react to that pressure during the Games, particularly being in the deep hole and working your way coming into that last….what is going on in your mind?'

Ainslie

'I guess I didn't deal with it very well at the beginning because the first six races I was beaten by the Danish sailor who sailed incredibly well. I was really up against it again. Unfortunately that seems to be theme of my sailing which is…going to speak to a sport's psychologist and work that out. It was a tough situation. Like you say there was a huge amount of expectation on all of the home athletes to perform. It was a lot of effort. A lot of fun over many, many years had gone into this home Olympics and making it a special event. It was tough.

'I think the hardest thing, as a competitor, was the fact that in past Olympics when you go away and you compete say in China or Greece, you're away from home. You're away from all the distractions. You just focus on the event, your training and you get on with it. When you're at home, all of a sudden you have to deal with the expectations of the sponsors, of friends, family friends. There were people I had never met before who claimed that they were related to me in some way or other. That's hard. You feel obligated to make an effort and it really is difficult to deal with all the day's expectations on your time as well as training and preparing for an event. So for all of the home athletes I think it was very difficult.' ISAF Website

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