Ben Ainslie coy over America`s Cup role

Olympic sailing great Ben Ainslie may be in the process of trying to put together Britain`s first winning America`s Cup team but he said Tuesday he was unsure if he would be a crew member at the 2017 edition.

AFP| Updated: Sep 09, 2014, 18:59 PM IST
Ben Ainslie coy over America`s Cup role

London: Olympic sailing great Ben Ainslie may be in the process of trying to put together Britain`s first winning America`s Cup team but he said Tuesday he was unsure if he would be a crew member at the 2017 edition.

Ainslie, four-times an Olympic gold medallist, helped Oracle Team USA overturn an 8-1 deficit to defeat Team New Zealand 9-8 in San Francisco last year as he became the first British sailor to be a member of a victorious America`s Cup team.

Now, under the banner of Ben Ainslie Racing, he has launched his own bid to win the trophy, although he knows the odds are stacked against a first-time entrant winning the trophy.

"There has only been one team in the history of the America`s Cup that has gone out and won it the first time around," Ainslie said at an America`s Cup press conference in London on Tuesday.

"It was a big comeback with Jimmy (Spithill, captain) and the guys at Oracle and it will certainly be a big challenge for us with this team.

"But, for us in Britain, to bring the America`s Cup home would be a massive thing for this team and this country."

However, the 37-year-old Ainslie was tight-lipped when asked if he would be on deck come 2017.

"We are putting together a predominately British sailing team," he said.

"(It will be) a mixture of experienced guys who have been successful in the cup and some younger talent coming through, particularly British talent.

"Putting that group together and working out how those relationships work -- if we were going racing tomorrow I would be steering the boat but that might not be the answer in a couple of years` time."

Other challengers bidding to take the trophy from Oracle Team USA in either San Diego or Bermuda -- the venue has still to be decided -- in two years` time again include Team New Zealand as well as Sweden`s Artemis Racing, Italy`s Luna Rossa Challenge and Team France.

Team New Zealand has been one of the leading contenders in yachting`s most prestigious event in recent decades, winning in 1995 and 2000, and being the beaten finalist in three of the four regattas since.

In an indication of the cost of top-flight yachting, the New Zealand government poured NZ$36 million ($31.2 million) into the last America`s Cup campaign and gave Team NZ a further NZ$5.0 million in bridging finance to keep going after the San Francisco loss.

But with an election in September, the response to further calls for more taxpayer funds was lukewarm, with Prime Minister John Key saying public interest in bankrolling the team was "waning".

However, June saw Team NZ chief executive Grant Dalton say that funding support for the team had "coalesced".

Although the America`s Cup started in 1851 with a race on the waters around the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of the English mainland, no British team has ever the oldest major trophy in international sport.