All hands on deck as Ainslie prepares Cup challenge

Tue Sep 9, 2014 5:29pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Ben Ainslie is the most successful Olympic sailor of all time but he said he might not necessarily helm Britain's America's Cup challenge in 2017, despite being the team boss.

Ainslie, who won medals at five consecutive Olympics and gold in the last four, is busy with the colossal task of putting together a British boat capable of beating Team Oracle, the American outfit he masterminded to one of the greatest sporting comebacks in San Francisco last year.

The 37-year-old said at least five of his eight-man crew will be British and such is the talent pool in a nation steeped in sailing tradition that he said he might not even be steering the boat when action begins at a venue still to be decided.

"We are a British team," Ainslie told Reuters at a news conference on Tuesday also featuring Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill and Dean Barker, whose Team New Zealand crew snatched defeat from the jaws of victory a year ago, having led 8-1.

"That's important to us that we are seen to be so. We are very fortunate that it happens that the key guys we identified were British, both in the design and sailing front.

"We have a mixture of guys, some with experience of previous Cup campaigns and some younger talent coming through, particularly British talent who race in 49ers and classes like that. It's about putting a group together and working out how the relationships work.

"If we were going racing tomorrow I would be steering the boat, but maybe that's not the same answer I would give you in a couple of years time."


America's Cup skipper Ben Ainslie from Ben Ainslie Racing poses with the America's Cup during a news conference introducing the 35th America's Cup, in London September 9, 2014. REUTERS/Daniel Leal-Olivas