The prospect of Britain’s Ben Ainslie being at the helm of the American defence of the America’s Cup next year was made clear in Venice by the boss of the Oracle team he has joined while Ainslie himself was being crowned world champion of the Finn singlehanded dinghy for the sixth time in Falmouth.
Ainslie had obliterated his 93 opponents and had only to complete the course of the final race to win the event but he did not even have to do that as a lack of wind forced race officer Peter Reggio to abandon all attempts to start.
"It is great. I am very happy," said Ainslie, who racked up an impressive seven wins from the nine races held this week. In the other two he was third.
While Ainslie has formed his own team in the hope of having a British tilt at the America’s cup in future, Ben Ainslie Racing, he has no hope of achieving that in the short time remaining until the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco in September 2013.
So he accepted an invitation from four-times America’s Cup winner Russell Coutts to join the San Francisco-based Oracle outfit, which won the cup from Switzerland’s Ernesto Bertarelli in Valencia in 2010.
That will involve racing a 45-foot wing-powered catamaran in the two world series regattas in San Francisco in August and October, taking part in early trials of the new 72-foot wing-powered match boat, and going with the team for further development and testing in New Zealand this winter.
“We're in something of a holding pattern, waiting for Ben Ainslie to come online,” said Coutts at his world series regatta in Venice. “I certainly think it is a good move that we have got him. The more I watch his performance the happier I am we've got him.”
His present skipper is the Australian Jimmy Spithill, and when an alternate, another Australian, was brought in, Darren Bundock, Bundock made it clear he was after Spithill’s job.
“I must say I am quite excited about Jimmy Spithill being on one boat and Ben Ainslie on another boat,” said Coutts. “Potentially that's pretty fierce competition. We will spend a lot of time evaluating our crew over the last two and a half to three months leading up to the Cup,” adding, in a clear indication that the top spot is up for grabs, “The only way we can do that is under high pressure racing. We will put the best people on the boat. Best trimmers, best helmsmen, best tacticians. Jimmy accepts this. It's not a popularity contest.”
Ainslie’s two stated early dreams were to win Olympic gold and the America’s Cup. He has a silver and three consecutive Olympic gold medals and few would bet against him to make that a fourth consecutive gold in Weymouth to become the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. His other dream may come true earlier than he thought.