Several days ago, Ben Ainslie hosted a live press conference in which he announced his intent to pursue the America’s Cup World Series trophy in a bit of a confusing partnership with 34AC powerhouse Oracle Racing. Here, Ainslie explains the reasoning behind his plans. [The Telegraph]
After the way 2011 ended, with my disqualification from the world championships in Perth, it is fantastic to be able to start the New Year with a positive and, for me personally, hugely exciting announcement.
My two great goals in sailing have always been the Olympics and the America’s Cup.
So I guess my return for what I hope will eventually be a proper crack at the oldest trophy in international sport was inevitable.
There was unfinished business there.
The way Team Origin disbanded at the end of 2010 was a sad moment for everyone involved but I am delighted to be back with a new team: Ben Ainslie Racing. And under the banner of my home sailing club, the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, as well.
The plan at the moment is merely to enter the America’s Cup World Series for 2012-13, which uses AC45s, rather than the 72ft wingsail catamarans which will be used in the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco in 2013.
It’s very early days and we have yet even to form a sailing team but it’s great to be back working with Grant Simmer, managing director and design chief of the successful Alinghi campaigns, and also Jo Grindley and Nick Masson on the commercial and communications side.
The plan is to bring in commercial partners and give them a taste of what the new-style America’s Cup World Series is all about.
And if all goes well, the hope is to challenge for the 35th America’s Cup, whenever and wherever that may be.
In the meantime I am fortunate enough to have been offered a place on the ORACLE Racing team for the defence of their title.
I will join the afterguard but I’ll be happy to slot in wherever I can be most useful and try to help the team successfully defend the Cup.
It goes without saying that this will provide me with invaluable experience as I seek to establish BAR and I’m hugely grateful to Russell Coutts, chief executive of ORACLE Racing, for giving me the opportunity.
Those with long memories will remember that I was not altogether persuaded by the switch to AC72s.
In fact, I was pretty critical of all the America’s Cup regulation changes in general.
But I’m happy to put my hand up and admit that my scepticism was unfounded.
Watching from a distance it is clear that the new format, with the America’s Cup World Series providing regular racing and a more sustainable business model, is working; the racing has been exciting and the speed exhilarating. I’ve been converted.
Naturally, people will want to know whether my new America’s Cup project rules me out of Brazil 2016 and a possible sixth consecutive Olympics.
All I can say is never say never. We don’t yet know what class of boats will be in Rio, or what shape BAR will be in by then. One step at a time.
At the moment my entire focus has to be on London 2012.
My altercation with a cameraman in Perth last month was a personal setback, I’m not going to lie.
I’ve had plenty of ribbing from friends about my diving skills and how I should be taking on Tom Daley on the 10m platform rather than the best sailors in the world but I’m fully aware of how serious my transgression was.
We demand a lot from our sportsmen and women; fighting spirit, ruthlessness, colourful personalities.
But I’m well aware that as an experienced member of Team GB I carry a responsibility to set an example, not only to young sailors but to youngsters in general.
The only thing I can say in my defence — and it in no way justifies what I did — was that the situation was extremely provoking, I shouted repeatedly to the media boat to get out of my way but it kept coming too close.
And in so doing, I felt, severely affected my race.
In hindsight, of course, I should have waited until afterwards and lodged a formal complaint but I’m afraid the red mist descended. I accepted the punishment and was devastated to lose the world title that way.
I was, though, encouraged to see that in the remainder of the competition — I stayed out to watch Giles Scott secure a brilliant gold for Britain in the Finn — the media boats kept a greater distance.
The RYA will now decide whether the matter goes to a tribunal. Of course, I will abide with whatever decision it makes.
What doesn’t break you makes you stronger, so the saying goes, and my experience in Perth has made me doubly determined to put things right this summer.
There are now fewer than 200 days to go until London 2012.
The America’s Cup World Series will begin almost immediately the Games finish so I haven’t left myself long to recover. But for me that’s a good thing.
I well remember the empty feeling after previous Olympics; after all the build-up and the intensity of the competition there was this massive void in my life once the Games were over.
This time I will be able to channel my energies in to a new and exciting project.
For now, it’s all about preparing for London 2012, which means the next regatta in Palma in March.