Sunday, 26 July 2015

Mrs Ainslie rolls up her sleeves to help her hubbie out!

In the absence of any racing today, the guys at Landrover BAR have been having a bit of a party at their HQ in Camber Quay, Portsmouth ahead of a visit from their biggest fans the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Mrs Ainslie - former Sky Sports presenter Georgie Thompson playing a major role in Landrover BAR campaign and making a difference

And who was doing the MC honours? None other than Mrs - or Lady - Ainslie. The former Sky Sports presenter Georgie Thompson has played a massive part in this campaign. First of all she has overseen all the interior design of the new HQ - apparently it looks smashing. Secondly, she does a fantastic job in front of a mic at private and public functions and makes everyone feel at ease.

Lastly, and most important. She has transformed Ainslie from a tense, awkward sometimes grumpy competitor into a relaxed happy funny bloke. The lines have disappeared from his face, he smiles most of the time now, his eyes sparkle and he actually looks and seems quite different. She has given him colour - happy hues - and you get the impression they are stronger together. Yikes. Doesn't bear thinking about!  Bravo Mrs A!

Happy smiley hubbie!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Ainslie 1-0 but who might stop him?

There was a clear consensus of opinion at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series skippers press conference earlier this week that Sir Ben Ainslie will win this opening skirmish of the AC45Fs. So it came as no surprise when he swept to victory in the first race in Portsmouth.

Favourites Landrover BAR

He and his team have been training on the Solent since the start of the year, finding the way round their foils in waters that are deemed tricky the world over. They have spent hours and hours training, in all winds and conditions. 

Ainslie is recognised as one of the best sailors in the world, with four Olympic gold medals and a formidable reputation as a fearless, ruthless and utterly uncompromising opponent. Make him angry at your peril. He uses anger to channel uncontrollable competitive urges which makes for some ugly encounters. He wins everything. Doesn’t he?

Well no actually. Not everything, Multihulls have never been his strong point. Give him a Laser or a Finn and he is the champion of the world but when he tried his hand at high performance catamaran sailing in the Extreme Sailing Series last year, he struggled. 

After eight events throughout the year, he finished fifth in a field of 11 which surprised many though it was quite a bit better than Franck Cammas from France who finished in 10th, which was even more of a surprise. Mastering multihulls was clearly going to take time.

Two skippers who also tried their hand at Extreme 40 racing but enjoyed immediate success are lining up against Ainslie today in the opening race of the ACWS. Tom Slingsby who stood next to him in the afterguard of Oracle Team USA when they won the America’s Cup in 2013 followed in Ainslie’s footsteps as Laser World Champion and Olympic gold medallist.
Tom Slingsby

Many consider him a more naturally gifted sailor than Ainslie who can add speed to any boat at a drop of a hat. Focus, dedication and determination he has in spades though few can match Ainslie who has more steel than Japan and USA put together.

Pete Burling of ETNZ has a 49er Olympic gold medal under his belt, which is the qualification teams are looking for when hunting down new crew. And when Burling took over from Dean Barker in the Extreme 40s, the Kiwis started appearing on the podium. Only 23 years old, he is regarded as a rare and special talent with a big future in America’s Cup racing.

Burling is Ainslie’s biggest threat though the effect of the upheaval in Emirates Team New Zealand since Barker’s services were dispensed with earlier this year has had an unknown effect on the team so their performances are under close scrutiny.
Pete Burling

Slingsby will be first in line to take over from Spithill if Oracle underperform in the ACWS. Spithill has two America’s Cup trophies to his name but taking the cynics view, the 2010 Cup was a Deed of Gift match against Alinghi which was a muscle flexing exercise between two giant egos and their  massive machines and 2013 was a triumph for Larry Ellison’s bottomless pockets which were around $250 million lighter by the time he had forked out for the foiling technology needed to play catch up with the Kiwis.

This AC cycle will be more of a test of Spithill’s skills and he too will come under close scrutiny which will make the next two years utterly absorbing and quite compelling. It is impossible to think Burling and Slingsby and Ainslie will still be mates by the end of it.

Friday, 24 July 2015

America's Cup skippers: Who is the crunchiest?

Sailing has always been a photogenic sport but the bar in 2015 has been raised.....!  These skippers are a crunchy lot but who is the crunchiest?

ACWS UK Skippers: L - R: Ainslie (GBR); Franck Cammas (FRA); Percy (SWE) Dean Barker (JAP) Glenn Ashby (NZ) Jimmy Spithill (USA). has to be Cammas!!!!

There are sailors and there are sailors....and then there is Pete Burling of ETNZ! Rare talent!

J Class v AC45 in the pic!

Oh dear. Dean Barker not happy!

That's the lovely Tom Slingsby at the front - he's an Aussie but a decent sort and one of the best sailors on the planet!

Who would want to sit at the back of this? They must be mad....!

The French are a bit of an unknown quantity........!

Lifting the boats out of the Historic Dockyard is producing some amazing imagery!
There could be a bit of this going on at the weekend - 18-24 knots of breeze. Yikes!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Ben Ainslie looks to create Britain’s biggest sporting story in more than a century.

Southsea Common looks like a cross between a village fete and a funfair but the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series kicking off down here today marks the start of what is likely to be Britain’s most momentous sporting story in more than a century.

After two years of planning and 30 of dreaming, Sir Ben Ainslie’s campaign to bring the America’s Cup to Britain for the first time ever is finally underway. Only a few members of the crowd who cheered his Landrover BAR racing boat out to the Solent race track at lunchtime had any idea of how enormous an undertaking this is and how this British sporting hero could very well rewrite history, again.

For the first time since 1851 when an American boat, called America, came over to England and won a race around the Isle of Wight to win a trophy that at the time was called the Royal Yacht Squadron 100 Guineas Cup, Britain has a good chance of winning the America’s Cup. A very good chance, as it happens.

The reason is Ainslie himself. Unique, determined, successful and because of that success, popular and well connected. Everyone who has worked with him closely knows that if Ainslie sets his heart on something, he will achieve it whatever it takes. Five Olympic medals is testament to that.
Most of us only have a vague idea of hard work and sacrifice but Ainslie has devoted most of his waking hours to winning medals. 

That has meant spending hours and hours in the gym, travelling around the world proving himself on the race track, tuning his boat before racing and  hosing it down after, working out ways to beat opponents, missing out on sessions with chums in the pub and waiting until his mid-30s to settle down and get married. 

Look at any area of Ainslie’s life and you will see sacrifice. You won’t see or hear much about the hard work, application and dedication but you will see his four gold medals and one silver and they tell us everything.

His success at any cost approach has won him many friends, including the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall who happily bring influence to bear on projects they believe in and wealthy businessmen with pockets deep enough to fund multi-million pound projects. 

Enter Sir Keith Mills, a similar sort of character to Ainslie with equally big ideas. For instance, he wanted London to host the Olympic Games so went out and made it possible. And Sir Charles Dunstone whose passion for sailing is matched by a knack for making squillions of pounds.

When Ainslie won the America’s Cup for Oracle Team USA in 2013, Mills and Dunstone picked up the phone and had a chat, deciding that the time was right for a British team led by Ainslie to make a bid for the Auld Mug, as the Cup is known.

There was no point in launching an America’s Cup campaign unless it was a seriously competitive one but that would cost a good deal of money, possibly as much as £100 million. 

So Mills and Dunstone got on the phone to some of their wealthy chums and a momentum started to build and before long, some seed money was in place – backed up by an unheard of £7 million contribution from public funds – to get the show on the road.

Inside two years, Ainslie has now secured most of the £100 million he needs. He has built a state of the art HQ in Portsmouth and forged close ties with the local community to make the campaign more than just a sailing project. 

It is proving to be a genuinely inspiring force driving education, technology and business programmes that are set to make a difference, even if Ainslie fails to win the America’s Cup and that is unlikely though it might not happen at his first attempt in 2017.

The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth will mark Ainslie’s America’s Cup debut in British colours. It is the first time we get to see his British America’s Cup team racing in Britain… or anywhere for that matter.
It is an historic moment. It marks the start of a journey that is set to make all of Britain immensely proud.