Ainslie busting a gut in America’s Cup quest
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[November 17, 2016]
By Alexander Smith
PORTSMOUTH, England (Reuters) -
Numbingly-cold salt water showers Ben Ainslie and his crew as they
enter "flight" mode in a practice sail before defending their
America's Cup World Series lead in Japan this weekend.
Their catamaran's rigging and hulls groan and creak with the strain
of the vast wing sail, which is about as big as a 737 aircraft's, as
their coach puts the crew of five through a "gut buster", a series
of short maneuvers requiring frequent adjustments, total
concentration and intense exertion.
Shouting over the screeching wind as the "cat" lifts on to its
hydrofoils, the sailors rehearse their moves, one moment bounding
across the trampoline that joins the hulls, the next perilously
suspended over the edge with only the red of their helmets visible.
"Its an amazing sensation when you lift up out of the water...It is
akin to flying an aeroplane. It takes a lot of focus and
concentration and then of course when you are in a racing
environment you've got to try to deal with beating the opposition at
the same time," Ainslie said when back ashore.
Named "Rita", as all the four-times Olympic gold medalist's boats
have been, Ainslie's state-of-the-art craft is one of four foiling
prototypes he and his 130-member Land Rover BAR team have developed
in a more than 80 million-pound ($99.5 million) quest to win the
"Auld Mug" back for Britain.
If Ainslie's team do complete the World Series on top after Fukuoka,
they will take two bonus points and a potential psychological
advantage into the America's Cup qualifiers in Bermuda next year.
Then they hope to beat teams from New Zealand, France, Sweden and
Japan for the right to battle it out head-to-head with holders
"The team are really proud of getting ourselves to the top of the
fleet but we need to keep doing the same things we have been doing
in those other events, keep that focus and not get too distracted
about some of the teams coming up behind us," Ainslie told Reuters.
As skipper, Ainslie is having to lose weight for the first time in
his sailing career. He is down to 80 kg, from 95 kg when he won gold
in the Finn dinghy at London 2012. Meanwhile, others, including
Giles Scott who won gold in the Finn in Rio this year, need to bulk
Off the water, Britain's most successful Olympic sailor has secured
the sponsorship to build a base, a team and a credible challenge in
Portsmouth, which overlooks the stretch of water know as the Solent
where in 1851 the schooner America first won the trophy which is
named after it.
One hundred and sixty five years on, Ainslie has also set up a
charity to encourage sailing among young people and the HQ hosts
daily visits by school children to the "Tech Deck" where they can
get to grips with the science behind the technology.
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Land Rover BAR with skipper Ben Ainslie races in day two of the
Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series on Lake Michigan. Mandatory
Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
After the race in Japan on Sunday, the team will move on to the warm
waters of Bermuda where in January America's Cup rules will allow
them to launch another 50-foot catamaran the team of designers and
engineers, some with a background in Formula One motor racing, have
The sleek anthracite-colored carbon hulls of "R1", short for Race 1,
are being fitted out in a vast workshop which forms the core of Land
Rover BAR's landmark headquarters on the Camber, an old dock in the
English naval city.
Each team jealously guards the secrets of its technology and no
cameras are allowed inside the hangar-like space.
But for those who do get inside, the skeleton of the new boat's
"wing" is laid out on the floor while technicians in white
protective suits are busy making the tweaks Ainslie hopes will be
the winning difference in May and June 2017.
"It's a big step up," Ainslie said the new boat, which will be far
more powerful and reach speeds of 50 knots and whose wing will tower
above the one he's been practicizing with.
"On these boats you can't afford to relax for a moment."
Apart from having a super-fit and well-choreographed crew of
athletes to keep the new boat flying, Ainslie says the technical
know-how of his team's sponsors and partners will be one secret
weapon in winning the America's Cup.
"We do have some really cool technical partnerships. Land Rover are
our title sponsor but also the innovation that they are putting
in...a lot of the computer power that they have has enabled us to go
through different simulations for the boat."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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