Ben Ainslie is fresh off a stunning result in the latest America’s Cup World Series event in San Francisco. His second place finish in the fleet racing (equal on points to winner Jimmy Spithill) leaves the rookie on the circuit in fourth place after two events, an impressive debut for a sailor who has made his reputation as the best sailor in the world through his domination in Olympic monohull dinghies, not wingsail catamarans.
Now, with the next AC World Series event months away, Ainslie moves into his other day job with ORACLE TEAM USA. When the second AC72 comes online in the spring, Ainslie will skipper one of the two boats in a defender series, with the intent of pushing Spithill into match fitness. Until then, Ainslie is playing his part in helping to get “17,” the first ORACLE TEAM USA AC72, up to speed.
"I was a little bit blown away when I first sat down with one of the engineers and went through the 3D modeling of the AC72," Ainslie said. "I have to say they are amazing machines. Even compared to the last Cup boats, these are very, very technical boats. It’s a really interesting process, working with the designers and engineers and taking all of the positives and negatives from the first boat to feed that into the construction of the second boat."
While ORACLE TEAM USA undertakes its preliminary testing sessions in the new boat, its rivals in New Zealand have been demonstrating impressive speed with the new Emirates Team New Zealand AC72 flying above the water on foils when sailing downwind. So how much does what the ORACLE TEAM USA sees in Auckland impact their design thinking?
"My personal view is that with a new class like this, everyone is scrambling to do the best that they can do. You don't have an option to look at what other people have done; the design for the second boat is pretty much done at this point," Ainslie says. "So to react to what Team New Zealand or Artemis Racing have done, it's too late. You have to back your own team and worry about getting your decisions right, more than you worry about what other people are doing."
Ainslie believes two other factors will play a large part in this America's Cup - reliability and constant improvement. "The shore crews are going to play a huge role. But the trick for all of these teams is going to be developing these boats over the next 12 months so that you're constantly improving,” he says.
Wise words coming from a man who has won four golds and a silver medal from his five Olympic campaigns.