It is – not unjustly – being described as one of the greatest comebacks ever. There was Oracle Team USA, languishing 8-1 behind Emirates Team New Zealand in the yachting world’s equivalent of Formula One. Enter Sir Ben Ainslie, Britain’s own sailing superhero and master tactician, and within a week the underdogs were claiming the America’s Cup 8-9, hydrofoiling their way into sporting history in the process.
Nor is Sir Ben content to rest on his laurels. Even adding an “Auld Mug” win to his already record tally of four Olympic golds and one Olympic silver has not sated his ambitions. It is high time that Britain fielded an America’s Cup team of its own, he says.
How right he is. The competition began in the Solent, more than 160 years ago – making it the oldest international sporting trophy in the world – yet we have not, to this day, ever won it. Indeed, the last time that Britain even took part was in 1964. And this from the nation that is home to any number of world-class sailors and holds the sport’s all-time Olympic crown.
True, the America’s Cup is about as far from dinghy-racing, or even round-the-world yachting, as a Ford Focus is from a 747. The carbon fibre catamarans, with their rigid wing-sails, are so hi-tech they fly above the surface of the water at up to 50mph. No wonder it can cost anything up to $200m to field a team. Even so. We can only hope that Sir Ben’s successes in the 34th Cup give a necessary boost to his plans for Britain in the 35th. As he says: “We have the sailors, it’s just about getting the money together.” Good luck to him.Reuse content