Sailing - Hero Ainslie gets set for sailing’s 'transfer window’

Just one day after winning the America’s Cup, Ben Ainslie is switching his focus to the daunting task of taking on sailing’s ‘transfer window’ to create a British team.

Eurosport
Sailing - Ainslie admits America's Cup targets need to be met by New Year
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UNITED STATES, San Francisco : Helmsman Sir Ben Ainslie reacts during a media conference after Oracle Team USA won the 34th America's Cup on September 25, 2013 in San Francisco. AFP

Ainslie, sailing’s most decorated Olympian, led an incredible comeback by Oracle Team USA, who came from 8-1 down to retain the America’s Cup 9-8.

The Briton, who boasts four Olympic golds and a silver from single-handed racing, came into the struggling team as they were losing 4-1 and, after getting to grips with the boat and crew, oversaw one of sport’s great fightbacks.

But the 36-year-old’s dream is to skipper a British yacht to victory in team sailing’s premium competition for the first time since 1851. And that, he explained, is a complicated and manic process.

"We’ll have to see what happens," Ainslie told Eurosport-Yahoo! the day after his incredible triumph. "The goal was to build up a British team to compete in the America’s Cup – not just the World Series.

"We’ve got to work very hard over the next couple of weeks to see if we can raise the funds.

"It’s a bit like the transfer window in football – top designers and sailors are looking for their next projects and we have to act very quickly to get the right people involved.

"We’ve been working on it for a while but it’s hard to get sponsors and individuals to commit until the format is confirmed. Now that’s in process we can gauge the level of genuine support to get the team together.

"Being part of a wining Americas Cup team was a goal since childhood, so I’m very proud of that. But I would love to see British team, which is a worthy challenge, so that’s what we’re working on."

That triumph is still settling in for Ainslie, who was in the process of being whisked across the United States from San Francisco to New York when he spoke to me.

"It’s an amazing comeback to be part of a team that did something so special in the sport of sailing," the Macclesfield-born Ainslie added.

"The other thing was the loss of Andrew Simpson (the British Olympic champion who died in a training accident with the Swedish team earlier this year).

"It was quite a poignant moment, particular for us and his family at conclusion of the event. He lived for sailing so for a lot of us it was quite a moving time.

"There have been changes made to the boats and format of racing to improve safety. We have been seen through the teams that we are getting better at racing this type of boat and it’s getting safer and safer. And I’m very confident about the future."

Ainslie is best known in Britain for his Olympic exploits as a single-handed sailor, winning a record four consecutive golds for Team GB.

But, after a dramatic victory at London 2012, he committed himself to America’s Cup sailing, which is an entirely different format that comes with different challenges but shared rewards.

"It’s much more about working with a team," he explained. "From single-handed Olympic sailing to working with 11 on the boats, and there’s also the wider team of around 130 people.

"You have to work with designers, builders, a shore team, fitness trainers... It’s a massive difference to be part of that. It requires a different approach both on and off the water.

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"But it’s rewarding to be successful with a team – to be part of that celebration is more powerful than individual glory."

That may come as a surprise from a man so renowned for his solo achievements. But the camaraderie of a team sport has its benefits – and, on this occasion, the relative lack of pressure allowed Ainslie to enjoy his racing.

"It was a different situation to when I compete in single-handed racing. I wasn’t expected to race until very late, initially taking a support role before coming into the racing with one day preparation," he continued.

"There was some pressure to do a good job but on other hand there was nothing for me to lose – we were 4-1 down. I just had to do the best I could and get people believing we could be successful again.

"I really enjoyed that. Everyone expected us to lose so it was the perfect situation in a way. Being able to prove people wrong after getting that momentum going – it was amazing to be part of it."

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