America's Cup: Ben Ainslie set to be a winner whether Team Oracle win or lose

The British skipper was promoted midway through the competition

Win or lose, the 34th America’s Cup is looking good for Ben Ainslie, knighted after winning four consecutive Olympic gold medals last year having warmed up with a silver when making his Games debut in 1996 at the age of 19.

Specifically targeted by Larry Ellison, boss of the Oracle team which has been fighting to defend the trophy in San Francisco, Ainslie found himself promoted from skippering the tune-up boat to the role of tactician on the race boat when it was decided that a “shake up” was needed when Oracle went four losses to one win down and the challengers from New Zealand were looking like runaway winners.

There were only two Americans in the 11-man crew anyway and that went down to one as John Kostecki, originally from Pittsburgh but learning all his craft on the bay, handed over and Ainslie was lauded in the US media as the man to save the day. Not an easy job.

But not a bad situation either. “It’s great to be there,” he said, “and there is still an element of anything can happen. Anyone who thought sailing is a dull pastime has only to look at what has gone on here. The television pictures are up there with any sport and people have been blown away by the type of racing. Going forward, the images we can show to potential sponsors are better than anything that has gone before.”

Which is what is really important to man who has not always been comfortable in the America’s Cup bubble. He started in 2000 when Peter Gilmour brought him into the U.S.-flagged OneWorld challenge in Auckland. The team was rocked by a design-hacking upset and Ainslie was rocked by the near-auxiliary role he was given, rather like a soloist being asked to play in the rank and file.

The hard school of Team New Zealand in 2007, switching from tactician to B-team helmsman against Dean Barker for the in-house trialling, was invaluable. He learned a great deal and the team coach, Rod Davis, was mighty impressed at the speed Ainslie was able to learn, improve, and provide an aggressive challenge to Barker.

A combination of disruption by court cases, the one-on-one challenge by Oracle against the then holder, Switzerland’s Ernesto Bertarelli, and the switch to the present wing-powered catamarans led to the withdrawal from the fray of the British challenge Team Origin, organised by Sir Keith Mills.

That, in turn, led to the establishment of Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) and the determination to form his own team to challenge for the cup next time. “The whole way it is shaping up at the moment is good,” said Ainslie. “The introduction of a nationality rule which would require a significant percentage of the crew being from the challenging country would be good for us in Britain.

“We have a big involvement with Downing Street in the Great Britons concept and with both this year’s defender and challenger saying that the problem of costs must be tackled, that would help too.”

But the whole thing will come down to funding and the sooner the better. Ainslie has been backed enthusiastically by JP Morgan Asset Management and the show in San Francisco has had the hospitality managers finally purring because they have invitations which people can covet and boast about.

If the event moves to New Zealand then the commercial numbers will always be more difficult and live television in the middle of the night hours of a European morning can cut the audience. At least the Kiwis care passionately about sailing, the America’s Cup and, along with rugby, their beloved team.

By being promoted to the race boat, awareness of both Ainslie and the event has been improved but as well as wanting to challenge, Ainslie wants to head a team with a realistic chance of winning. “The trick in the coming months is how quickly we can raise the funds,” he said. “After that, we have the designers, we have the sailors, and it is going to be very hard to move this event backwards. The racing is breathtaking.”       

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'