America's Cup World Series: Personal rivalries rising to the surface ahead of inaugural event

The Kiwis are in retaliatory mode, the Swedes are biding their time, while the Japanese are plotting and the French are wondering how to come from behind

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The Independent Online

Personal rivalries are rising quickly to the surface ahead of the inaugural America’s Cup World Series. Having collaborated in the successful defence by Oracle Team USA in San Francisco in 2013, Australian skipper Jimmy Spithill is happy to twist the tail of Sir Ben Ainslie now that he is skipper of British challenger Land Rover BAR.

The Kiwis, in retaliatory mode, are also in the mood to wind up Spithill, the Swedes, skippered by Ainslie’s long-time friend Iain Percy, are biding their time. The Nishinomiya-based Japanese, skippered by the ousted TNZ skipper Dean Barker, are plotting, and the French are wondering how to come back from behind.

The French have about €20m, mainly from insurance company sponsor Groupama, but know they are the austerity players in the game so far and will have to rely on guile and youthful enthusiasm to make up for their lean, mean approach. “It will be very difficult to beat the English,” said skipper Franck Cammas.

Rain may be threatening the America’s Cup parade for the opening day, Friday, of the World Series regatta in Portsmouth on Friday. Fortunately, it is just final practice for the six teams lining up off Southsea and the prospects are much better for two brace of races which count for the first points which accumulate until the end of the 2016 season. They are on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The teams are fired up any which way and promise an internal battle that will see not only points scored but pecking orders begin to emerge. So far the rest only have to be envious of Land Rover BAR’s centre stage limelight and fancy headquarters building as well as growing financial support for their tilt at the title in Bermuda in 2017. That was boosted further this week with the announcement of technical support from BAe Sytems and financial, from stock markets spread betting company CMC Markets. Boss Peter Cruddas, a former co-treasurer of the Conservative party, was conventionally coy about the amount, believed to be about £5m. over three years. He said the amount was ring-fenced until the end of the campaign.

They may have more of which to be envious on Sunday afternoon.