A man on a mission, Macclesfield’s Sir Ben Ainslie admits the excitement continues to build as qualification for the America’s Cup draws closer.
Already a four-time Olympic champion, Ainslie is bidding to help Britain to even more glory on the water by claiming victory in the America’s Cup for the first time in the competition’s history with his Portsmouth-based team Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR).
The latest developments saw the Duchess of Cambridge – Royal Patron of the 1851 Trust, which works with under-25s to inspire them to take to the sea – visit the South Coast on Thursday to check in on the progress being made.
The team’s headquarters are due to be completed by the end of May, while qualification races for the 35th America’s Cup Match begin in Cagliari, Italy, from June 5-7 before the next leg in Portsmouth in July.
The Duchess was introduced to BAR’s Design Team, who shared the innovative technology behind the America’s Cup racing, introduced some of the advanced technologies the team have in development and gave an update on the timeline and build schedule, between now and the final racing event in 2017.
And Ainslie, whose team spent time last month out training in Bermuda – the venue for the America’s Cup in 2017 – admits progress is coming along nicely.
“The base is scheduled to be completed by the end of May and we’ll start moving in by the end of June,” he said.
“It’s a big step for us. It’s very important for us to have a strong base in Portsmouth and it will be a big moment for the whole team.
“It was good to get the Duchess down on Thursday and for her to see what was going on and what the Trust is up to.
“It’s an amazing team effort, with a huge amount of support from a number of people making it all happen.
“It’s a pretty intense programme and it will be all the way through. It’s a balance between getting enough time out on the water and making sure to oversee everything.
“There were great sailing conditions out in Bermuda and it was great for the sailing team to learn a bit more about the venue and just to be there for training and fitness, it was a bit like a boot camp.
“We have the first qualification event in Sardinia in June before coming back to Portsmouth so it’s a busy time.”
With so much to organise, it’s fair to say life has not slowed down for Ainslie since he retired in the wake of his fourth Olympic gold medal at London 2012.
Just 18 months remain until Rio 2016, and while admitting it will be strange not to be involved after competing at the last five Games, the 38-year-old insists his appetite for success is still as strong but this time it is focused on the America’s Cup.
“I am sure I will miss the Olympics in Rio when it starts, but we’ll be backing the team 100 per cent,” he added.
“We’ve got Finn world champion Giles Scott on board with us on the team and he is one of the red hot favourites in Rio so it will be good to watch his campaign.
“We have a very successful history at the Olympics in sailing but in the America’s Cup we have not got that and our focus is on changing that.”
The 1851 Trust aims to inspire and engage a new generation through sailing and the marine industry, providing young people with the education, skills and training to become innovators of the future, and stewards of the marine environment. The 1851 Trust will work with other charities to deliver our goals – www.1851Trust.org.uk
Main image courtesy of Ben Ainslie Racing via YouTube, with thanks.