Ainslie defends Oracle cup role

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The Independent Online

Ben Ainslie yesterday insisted that America's Cup commitments will not jeopardise his quest for a fourth Olympic gold this summer.

On home waters this August, the 34-year-old will look to become the most successful Olympic sailor ever, before turning attention to the oldest active trophy in international sport.

Ainslie yesterday announced the launch of his own America's Cup team in central London, with Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) set to compete in the 2012/13 World Series after the Olympics.

BAR will be underwritten by Oracle Racing, whom Ainslie will join for their defence of the 34th America's Cup, but the Lymington-based sailor does not believe the busy schedule will take him off course for Olympic gold.

"I have always had other things going on in sailing around the Olympics," he said. "I have never been solely focused on the Olympics the whole way through a cycle.

"In the last cycle I was involved with Emirates Team New Zealand in the America's Cup and before that the One World Challenge with the American team. I have found, in fact, that it is a good way to build your skills, gain new ones and keep fresh for the Olympic side of things.

"I don't see it as a distraction and, as I said, the focus is 100 per cent on the Finn and this summer, making sure I do everything I can to be best prepared to get the right result."

While Ainslie will join Oracle for the 34th America's Cup, he harbours serious ambitions of challenging them in the following edition.

BAR will race in the AC45 class in the 2012/13 season in a bid to build a brand that will help attract sponsors to cover the estimated £30m required for a full-blown America's Cup assault.

"It is a really great opportunity that has come together with Oracle Racing to put this team together now for the America's Cup World Series and develop that through the 2012/13 season," he said.

"We want to build up BAR and get the right partners involved so in the future, post-2013, we can be in a position to be a successful, strong challenger for the America's Cup. That is the goal in the larger picture, but the focus right now is on the summer, London 2012."

Having felt impeded by a media boat's wake on the downwind leg of his ninth race at last month's World Championship, Ainslie swam over to the offending boat and hauled himself on board to remonstrate with the crew.

The Royal Yachting Association is considering whether to take any further action as a result and Ainslie is keen to put the issue to bed.

"It was a very disappointing situation," he said. "Very, very frustrating. I obviously regret what happened but I was happy with my performance."