Ainslie back for Gold Cup battle
Sailing legend Ben Ainslie will go from one extreme to the other during next week's Argo Group Gold Cup.
Britain's most decorated sailor will swap the state-of-the-art AC72 catamaran for the International One Design (IOD) sloop used for the Alpari World Match Racing Tour-sanctioned Gold Cup.
“It is one extreme to the other so it will be a lot of fun,” Ainslie told The Royal Gazette. “But I'm sure we will probably struggle a little bit with our time on distance at the beginning of the event.”
Ainslie sailed in the AC72 as a tactician during the 34th America's Cup which he helped defenders Oracle Team USA retain the cup after seeing off challengers Emirates Team New Zealand in a best-of-17 series that went down to the wire in San Francisco Bay.
The AC72 is 86-feet in length, has a 45.9 foot beam, Hydrofoiling capability and is sailed by a crew of 11.
The catamaran is capable of sailing faster than the true speed of the wind going to windward and leeward. The fastest race speed recorded was on Emirates Team New Zealand who were clocked at 55mph.
“It probably takes an AC72 30 seconds to get from one side of Hamilton Harbour whereas it's a bit different with the IOD,” Ainslie said. “But they (IOD) are great boats for the match racing which is what they are used for and we always love going to Bermuda for the boats and the style of racing.
“We're really looking forward to being back there and racing on the harbour and enjoying some great sailing and great competition.”
Ainslie is a two-time Gold Cup winner.
He lifted the King Edward VII Trophy for the first time in 2009 after besting Kiwi Adam Minoprio 3-1 in the final and then successfully defended his title the following year after prevailing against Demark's Jesper Radich by the same margin of victory.
Ainslie is only the second skipper behind Oracle Team USA CEO Russell Coutts to win back-to-back Gold Cups since the regatta was reformatted in 1984.
The 36 -year old skipper will sail in the upcoming Gold Cup with team-mates Matt Cornwell, Christian Kamp and Iain Percy who also sailed with him during the successful 2009 Gold Cup campaign.
“I'm really excited about coming back and all of the guys are,” Ainslie added. “Iain Percy has been out with the Artemis team (Sweden's America's Cup entry) in San Francisco and Christian Kamp and Matt Cornwell sailed with me when we doing the World Match Racing Tour.
“We've had some great memories and great victories and really always enjoy the hospitality and sailing in Bermuda.”
Ainslie is racing in the Gold Cup to raise awareness of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation. Simpson was killed last May after the AC72 he was sailing in (Artemis) capsized while bearing away from the wind during an America's Cup training run in San Francisco Bay.
“We were all out there with the Artemis accident and it really rocked the whole sailing community and, of course, the whole sailing world,” Ainslie said. “Once the America's Cup was over a lot of our thoughts went back to the whole competition and what happened with the loss of Bart (Simpson) and, of course, remembering him and what an amazing guy and great sailor he was.”
Ainslie is due to conduct a clinic for advanced Optimist sailors and face national match race champion Joshua Greenslade in a match race prior to the start of the Gold Cup.The event will be held from October 7-13.