Tuesday, June 10, 2014
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Olympic champion Ainslie leads UK bid for America's Cup

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[June 10, 2014]  LONDON (Reuters) - Sailor Ben Ainslie will lead an 80 million pound ($134 million) British challenge for the 35th America's Cup in 2017, aiming to return sport's oldest trophy to his country for the first time.

The four-time Olympic gold medallist helped inspire one of the great sporting comebacks last year when Oracle Team USA rallied from 8-1 down to defeat Emirates Team New Zealand 9-8 and land the trophy.

The 37-year-old has now set his sights on a British challenge, seeking to lead his country to a first win since the competition began in 1851.

The venue for the 2017 regatta has yet to be confirmed, but new protocols, including nationality requirements, have been negotiated by software billionaire Larry Ellison, owner of Oracle, and Team Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club, the Challenger of Record.

"It's a huge challenge, there's no doubt about it," Ainslie told reporters at the launch by the river Thames in south London.

"Taking on Larry Ellison and the team is a massive challenge, no question about it," he added.

There has long been speculation that Ainslie planned to lead an America's Cup challenge but he had been awaiting the protocols or guidelines and also putting together the funding and crew.

Telecoms entrepreneur Charles Dunstone said 40 percent of the budget would come from wealthy individuals.

"We needed to form a team before we stand credibly before you today," said Dunstone, chairman and founding shareholder of the Ben Ainslie racing team.

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Among the new protocols, the next Cup will be sailed with a similar but smaller version of the 72-foot, wing-sail catamarans used in 2013. The new 62-foot boats, called AC62s, will be crewed by eight people, three fewer than last year.

($1 = 0.5956 British Pounds)

(Additional reporting by Alex Smith; Editing by Keith Weir/Amlan Chakraborty)

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