Ainslie wants to keep Origin momentum

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The Independent Online

Running hard to stand still, the greater the success the greater could be the frustration for a British challenge for the America's Cup which is already being described as the best since 1934.

The short term problems are simple. They are called Alinghi, BMW Oracle, Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand, in that order, over the next five days of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, culminating with a race against the Italian team Damiani.

The effects of a byzantine scoring system include the fact that Team Origin cannot fail to make the quarter finals and that if it were to be top dog after those five races it would have an automatic place in the challenger final, which would cut down the amount of racing which it badly needs.

So losing makes no difference and winning harms the momentum and match practice which skipper Ben Ainslie considers very important. ETNZ, as the host organisation, goes straight to a place in the final. But momentum of a different nature is also playing on the minds of all the top management team, headed by Sir Keith Mills with Ainslie, tactician Iain Moore, Kiwi sailing director Mike Sanderson and design co-ordinator Andy Claughton at the heart of it.

There are due to be two regattas in Valencia this year for all the registered challengers for the next America's Cup and Sir Keith says there is a sailing programme for the whole year, not least because he has to plan to be ready for an America's Cup in 2010.

All of those plans can fall apart if the New York Court of Appeals finds in favour of BMW Oracle after final depositions are lodged next week on 10 February, and Sir Keith is less willing to make concrete commitments if the Cup were to stretch out into 2011 or even 2012. That includes the building of the new 85-foot design for launching early next year.

Sir Keith feels that enough time has been spent talking about the next America's Cup and not enough time sailing but, for Ainslie, there cannot be too much talking over the remaining 10 days of the Auckland regatta.

"It is vital to build relationships and communication," he says. "This is the start of building up a sailing team, one of whose jobs is not to let the design team down on the water. We've been fighting a few fires, but we have done incredibly well."

The triple gold and Olympic silver medallist is clearly comfortable with the crew around him. "We are really, really happy so far," he says. "We have done a good job of working out our problems and moving on."