‘Second successive podium finish gives us heart’

Tuesday 8th September 2015

5th place on ‘Super Sunday’ cost us but we can take heart from second successive podium finish, says Ben Ainslie

After the incredible experience of winning the first Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event on home waters in Portsmouth last month, unfortunately we were not quite able to follow that up with victory in the second in Gothenburg over the weekend.

Tied for the lead with Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA going into Sunday’s final race, we were rolled by Softbank Team Japan off the start and were up against it from then on. An eventual fifth place cost us with points counting double on ‘Super Sunday’. Emirates Team New Zealand, who won the final race, were worthy winners.

But we can take an awful lot from a second successive podium finish. It is still early days as we build towards the America’s Cup proper in Bermuda in 2017 but right now I’m happy with where we are alongside the likes of USA and New Zealand. These regattas do count towards the America’s Cup proper. They are not just exhibition events which is why we take them so seriously.

The last month has been gratifying in terms of how we are viewed by the rest of the competition and how we view ourselves. I said it at the time, but the Portsmouth event was a big statement for us . Apart from winning the America’s Cup itself it was probably the most important thing we could have done. I know our competitors liked our vision; with our base on the Camber in Old Portsmouth, completed in just 12 months; with the hundreds of thousands of British fans who turned up to watch the series with our team being strong on the water straight off the bat. They know now that we mean business.

This regatta was not quite so good for us on the water. It was a short, tight race course with submerged rocks making things tricky for all of the teams. But we were generally happy with the way we sailed, and particularly with the atmosphere on board the boat. The bond between the guys is great and I feel as if the crucial relationship between myself and Giles Scott, our tactician, is improving all the time.
Giles only just got back from Rio de Janeiro where he won the Olympic test event in my old dinghy class, the Finn. From our perspective, we are delighted to support his Olympic bid. It suits both parties. If he can come back with a gold medal next summer, it would be great for the team and obviously fantastic for him. He deserves it; he is a hugely talented sailor and works tremendously hard.

Of course, it was also nice to grill him on all the gossip from Rio. There were lots of stories of polluted waters and sick sailors but I know the Rio race course, beneath Sugarloaf, is absolutely stunning. And I’m sure the event itself will be amazing.

In the meantime, the rate of progress at Land Rover BAR could not be more exciting. Off the water, the team is constantly developing. We have made good progress on the commercial front and hope to announce another new partner in the near future. On the water, as I say, I am delighted with the progress we have made.
We have one more Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event left this year. In Bermuda towards the end of October. Of course, with the finals taking place there in 2017, there will be an extra incentive to win that one.
We know the waters there pretty well having been on a few reconnaissance trips, but it will be a key learning experience. We are limited in the amount of time we can actually train on the World Series cats – just two days prior to each regatta – but in the meantime, we plough on with the development of our own America’s Cup boat back at the base.
The guys there are working flat out, putting in incredibly long hours, and I am excited to say we are very close to launching ‘T2’, our second test boat, which should happen in the next week or two. Once again, it will be a proud moment; that we have been able to make such substantial progress in such a small space of time. It is testament not only to the guys on the water at the events, but the scores of people back at the base, developing the boat, crunching the numbers, giving us feedback.
It is a cliche but this really is a team game.