Oman Sail have today announced that triple Olympic gold and silver medallist, Ben Ainslie, is to step into the role of skipper on their Extreme 40, Oman Air. The triple Olympic gold medallist will join the team in Trapani and compete in three rounds of the Extreme Sailing Series.
Ainslie, who is Britain’s most successful Olympic sailor ever, will replace Frenchman Sidney Gavignet, following the announcement in August that he would be leaving the Extreme 40, to head-up Oman Sail’s new Multi One Design 70 campaign.
The move further ups the tempo in the Extreme 40 class, with four past and present America's Cup teams competing, along with many Olympic medal winners. The number of Olympic gold medals in the Extreme 40 Series has just increased by three.
Ainslie, who has spent an intense 10 months competing in his Finn Olympic dinghy where he is trying to gain selection to the 2012 Olympics to defend his current Olympic title. He is looking forward to the shift to multihull sailing with Oman Air for the remaining European stages of the Extreme Sailing Series, before he gets back in the Finn to compete at the ISAF World Championships and Finn Gold Cup in Perth, Australia at the end of the year.
'After such an intense period of sailing the Finn, it’s going to be great to get out there and do some different sailing. I had always planned to take a break from the Finn after the Olympic Test Event, it’s a great opportunity for me and the switch to a different class will be a real positive. In the past I have found that it is good to step away, learn new skills, sail with new people and ultimately come back refreshed.' Said Ainslie.
The Extreme Sailing Series has passed the half way point of the competition, and with events in Muscat, Qingdao, Istanbul, Boston and Cowes already complete, the Oman Air team currently sit in eighth place overall. 'There is definitely a bit of pressure stepping on the boat at this stage in the Series, and I think it is going to be a lot about me not letting the guys down as they have been doing a great job so far this year. We have just a couple of days training in Trapani before our first event together, so it is going to be tough going in cold, but hopefully I can pick it up quickly and we can get some good results.' Ben Ainslie.
Ainslie joins Nasser Al Mashari, Oman Air’s Omani bowman, who has come through the Oman Sail training programme and this year has made his debut as a full time crew member, while Kinley Fowler (AUS), an experienced match racer will continue to call the team’s tactics, with David Carr (GBR), who sailed with Ainslie as part of Team Origin, Britain’s America’s Cup team as Oman Air’s Trimmer. Nasser Al Mashari is looking forward to sailing with Ainslie. 'I am very excited about the new team, I met Ben recently and I am so thrilled to be sailing with him. He is known around the world as an incredibly talented sailor. We will work hard during our training days in Trapani to find the right team dynamic and get used to sailing together, and Inshallah, we will have some good results on the water.'
The 11 international teams competing in the Extreme Sailing Series now have an intense period in Europe with back to back events taking place between September and mid October. After Trapani the teams head off to Nice, in the heart of the French Rivera, from the 30th September, before travelling the 1,482 km along the coast to Almeria in Spain, for five days of racing from the 12th October. The Extreme Sailing Series draws to a conclusion in Singapore, in December.
Oman as a nation has dominated the Extreme Sailing Series for the last two years, with Oman Sail Masirah claiming victory at the European and Asian Series in 2009, and The Wave, Muscat claiming the European title in 2010. Both of Oman Sail’s entries in the 2011 Series, Oman Air and The Wave, Muscat, have an Omani national onboard, with Nasser Al Mashari making his debut as a full time Bowman onboard Oman Air, and Khamis Al Anbouri, the man who made history in 2010 when he became the first Omani to stand on the top of the podium at an international sailing event, on board The Wave, Muscat.
Oman Sail website www.omansail.com