Ainslie's Origin team command respect

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The Independent Online

Unbeaten in the first series of races, Britain's new America's Cup team moved smoothly into the gold fleet of six for the second group of races for the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series which starts on Thursday.

Ben Ainslie, skipper of Team Origin, was cautious, emphasising the need to continue the progress achieved so far with a crew that had only five two-hour sessions to bed down.

But he could not hide a measure of satisfaction that has seen a crew which is commanding praise and respect from all nine of its rivals make rapid progress.

It includes beating the current America's Cup holders, Switzerland's Alinghi, and the 2007 Louis Vuitton challenger series quarter finalists, Italy's Luna Rossa. He was also the subject of praise from Emirates Team New Zealand coach and former skipper Rod Davies. "He was one of the easiest people to coach and no-one, least of all Team New Zealand, thought that Ben would come here without threatening to be right at the top," said Davies.

It has not been happy for Alinghi. While the hosts, and 2007 Cup finalists ETNZ also have a clean sheet in the other half of the draw, Alinghi took another beating in its final race at the hands of South Africa's Shosholoza.

Whether Alinghi helmsman Ed Baird was sleeping or frozen in the headlights was unclear, but he allowed Paolo Cian and tactician Tommaso Chieffi to leave him stranded in the pre-start. From then on it was down hill all the way and Alinghi lost by nearly four minutes.

"It was one of the worst races we have ever sailed," said skipper Brad Butterworth. "We sailed badly. We fell asleep."

With the retirement of second-placed Roland Jourdain from the Vendee Globe solo round the world race, Britain's Sam Davies has moved up to third place with 1,000 miles to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne. She now needs to beat fourth-placed Marc Guillemot to share the podium with 2004 winner Vincent Riou, who was awarded third after being dismasted in the rescue of Jean le Cam.

Brian Thompson is fifth and Dee Caffari sixth, with Steve White in eighth to give Britain four finishers out of seven starters, including both of the only two women in the race. There are now 11 left of the original 30.

Davies should finish this weekend.