Ben Ainslie has been called off the bench to take over as tactician for the struggling America’s Cup defender Oracle Team USA.
The recently knighted British Olympian replaces John Kostecki, one of only two Americans in the 11-man crew, who pays the price for losing race five when Oracle was ahead and then made a move which allowed Emirates Team New Zealand to overtake and then inflict a painful victory. That put the challengers up by four wins to one in the best of 17 series. And due to a two-point penalty, Oracle is still minus one on the score board.
Five-times Olympic medallist Ainslie, four of them consecutive golds, was out training with Oracle on San Francisco Bay on Wednesday. He had been helmsman and skipper of the tune-up boat and comes in at a time when Oracle had retired from racing after race five “to regroup” and knowing that backs are to the wall against a confident and sometimes faster Team New Zealand, for whom Ainslie had once also been tune-up helmsman.
Skipper Jimmy Spithill retains his place as skipper and the man at the helm of a campaign that has cost local software billionaire Larry Ellison well north of $200m. Ainslie is notoriously savvy when it comes to awareness of what is going on around him but as this is a one-on-one match race on a very restricted track, rather than a fleet race with wider options. The opportunities for either side are limited