Ben Ainslie celebrates playing part in America’s Cup sensation
Sir Ben Ainslie dedicated Oracle Team USA’s extraordinary triumph to Andrew Simpson, after the British sailing legend helped to pull off the greatest comeback in America’s Cup history.
Simpson, Ainslie’s fellow Olympian, was killed in a training accident in May, which led to questions over whether the 34th America’s Cup would take place at all.
Instead, the death of Dorset-based Simpson led to a series of safety measures being introduced into a competition which Team USA seemed to have thrown away any chance of winning when Emirates Team New Zealand led 8-1, needing just one more win to lift the trophy.
The struggling American team reacted by bringing Ainslie, who grew up and learned to sail in Cornwall, on board in place of tactician John Kostecki, and Britain’s quadruple Olympic gold-medal winner helped to bring about a remarkable turnaround, culminating in Wednesday’s victory in San Francisco Bay which gave Team Oracle USA a famous 9-8 victory.
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Interviewed by the Daily Mail, Ainslie said: “I looked up to the stars after it all settled down at the end and thought of Bart [Simpson].
“In some ways, this was for him. He loved sailing and he loved the America’s Cup. He would have been so excited about this series.
“It was emotional. It has been a hard few months with his death and all that followed it. He has been in my mind.
“This is the most amazing thing I have ever been involved in,” Ainslie added. “When you are in the Olympics, you are doing it on your own.
“You can enjoy the success, but you can only let yourself down. This is more rewarding, doing it in a team. You can share this.”
The hosts faced an uphill task after being docked two penalty points. They were 8-1 down last week despite having won three races. That Oracle clawed their way back was in no small part thanks to the skill of Ainslie.
It was a devastating blow to the New Zealand team, who had been backed by fervent support back home but were given almost no chance to seal the final point they needed thanks to a combination of the weather and the American team’s improved form.
Dean Barker’s crew’s best chance of victory came on Friday when they led in light winds, before the race was abandoned with the 40-minute time limit having passed.
New Zealand again led in Wednesday’s decider, but it proved short lived as the American surged past them with vastly superior speed on the upwind leg.
“Everyone had written us off,” Ainslie said. “The opposition had written us off. The experts had written us off.
“I never gave up hope, but I knew it would be hard. When I came in, everyone was a bit down, but I was a new face and that gave everyone a lift.”
Ainslie now wants to target winning the America’s Cup with a British team. No boat from these shores has ever triumphed in the America’s Cup – and that is something he is looking to change.
Ainslie said: “It would be great to get out a British boat next time. We have the sailors, it’s just about getting the money together.”