Ainslie tests waters with British America's Cup crew

Mon Jun 23, 2014 5:58pm EDT
 
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By Alexander Smith

ISLE OF WIGHT England (Reuters) - Ben Ainslie isn't angry, but sailing's most successful Olympian is clearly irritated.

After a text book start to the annual "Round the Island Race" off Cowes, Ainslie and his crew aboard the sleek green racing yacht "Rebel" are locked in a tacking duel with another 45-footer called "Toe in the Water".

It is 6.45 a.m. and under clear blue skies what promises to be a slow 50 nautical mile race has only just begun.

But with precious little wind, areas of "pressure" evident as darker patches on the calm waters, every turn of the boat – known as a "tack" – slows it down against a fast-running tide.

"We're coming after you," Ainslie says, half jokingly, half menacingly, after one of several close encounters with the maroon yacht. Its skipper has clearly decided to engage Britain's America's Cup hopeful by matching him tack for tack.

The 37-year-old Briton, who warned fellow competitors "you don't want to make me angry" at the 2012 Olympics before going on to clinch gold in the single-handed Finn dinghy, gradually draws away as his boat makes its way up the Solent.

With an Olympic medal tally of four golds and one silver in consecutive games, Ainslie's success continued last year when he helped bring Oracle Team USA back from the brink of defeat in the America's Cup in San Francisco.

That remarkable victory helped him to launch his own campaign this month, signing up private sponsors, a design team and a crew including three-times America's Cup winner Jono Macbeth, another New Zealand veteran Andy McLean and Britons David Carr, Matt Cornwell and Nick Hutton.   Continued...

 
Oracle Team USA tactician Ben Ainslie speaks to members of the media after winning Race 18 of the 34th America's Cup yacht sailing race against Emirates Team New Zealand in San Francisco, California September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam