Sir Ben Ainslie eyes British challenge for 2014 America’s Cup
Sir Ben Ainslie says he is working very hard to secure a British challenge for the 2014 America's Cup
He is the most successful sailor in Olympic history but according to Sir Ben Ainslie the Briton now faces his biggest challenge yet on or off the water.
Ainslie, who has won medals at five consecutive Olympic Games from 1996 to 2012, is currently on a fund-raising and support drive to help raise money to launch a British challenge for the America’s Cup next year.
The 36-year-old was a member of the Oracle Team USA that pulled off a stunning comeback to beat Emirates Team New Zealand 9-8 in this year’s event in San Francisco.
And the four-time Olympic champion is hoping to put a team together to mount a challenge to bring the trophy back to the United Kingdom, where the America’s Cup began in 1851.
“I’m working very hard on the fundraising right now – it is a crucial part of having a British America’s Cup boat,” said Ainslie, talking at the UK Coaching Awards 2013: supported by Gillette, which took place at the Montcalm Hotel, Marble Arch in London this week.
“The funds are crucial in building a team, I have had a lot of positive conversations and I’m still very hopeful but we need support and backing.
“There are dates we need to hit and ultimately by the New Year we need to have met those targets.
“We then need to wait and see where, when and what boats will be involved in the next America’s Cup and decide how we integrate all of our partners.
“Obviously it is a lot of money to rise to have a competitive team for the future, but we have had a tremendous amount of support from the public.
“Coming back from San Francisco, it was amazing to see that, globally, the America’s Cup really took hold.
“I’m confident of having a very strong British team and I’m confident of having the funding and backing in place – but we need to keep working very hard.
“The America’s Cup is about teamwork and we have an enormous number of fantastic sailors in the UK, who I know could be very successful indeed.
“At the moment the America’s Cup is not exclusive to nationalities – although predominantly we will have a British boat, we will also bring in people from other countries that can make a real impact to our team.
“The America’s Cup is my focus right now and my future – I have moved away from the Olympic Games and this is what it’s all about me.”
Meanwhile, coaches of Ainslie were revealed as winners of the Coaching Chain Award at the UK Coaching Awards this week – an event attended by a host of big-names, including Lions boss Warren Gatland, who landed UK Coach of the Year.
The award recognises the coaches that have contributed to an athlete’s success, from firing their interest, or encouraging them in a sport, to developing their talent, to coaching them at the elite level.
The ‘Chain’ for Ainslie is Dr Phil Slater, Cathy Foster, Jim Saltonstall MBE, John Derbyshire OBE, and David Howlett. In addition, it was also recognised that other people and coaches have contributed to Ben’s success.
Dr Slater and his wife Jillian encouraged Ben into racing his Optimist, the class in which he enjoyed his first taste of international competition in the World Championships.
Foster coached Ben when he moved to the Laser class. He won his first World Championship in the smaller Laser Radial in 1993, before enjoying similar success in the full rig in 1998.
Saltonstall is a key figure in the success of British sailing, establishing a Youth Racing Programme which is the envy of the world. He was Team Manager when Ben won Silver and Gold and the man Ben credits for ‘getting them on the road’.
Derbyshire is RYA Performance Director and was Ben’s coach from 1994 to 2000, during which time he took Silver in Atlanta and Gold in Sydney in the Laser Class.
Howlett supported Ben to achieve Olympic sailing history when he won his fourth straight Olympic gold at the 2012 London Games, making him the most successful sailor in Olympic history. He also helped him to secure his 10th World Championship.
“It has been very nostalgic for me to look back at how I got into the sport of sailing,” added Ainslie. “There are a lot of people here who have helped me throughout my career but perhaps don’t get the recognition they deserve so this is very pleasing.
“Coaching is a key element of turning a youngster with potential into a world star – these guys have been crucial for me and also for so many others.
“Coaching is not just about the people at the top of their sports – yes, youngsters need heroes to look up to and inspire then but it’s about grassroots coaching as well.
“I think it’s vital we recognise our coaches. It’s easy to remember the people on the podium at an Olympic Games but the coaches who have worked tirelessly with them behind the scenes are not often remembered.
“These are the people in the background making it happen, helping an athlete to improve and learn new techniques – they need to be honoured.”
The 2013 Gillette Great Starts’ campaign celebrates community coaches and inspires the next generation of coaches by providing them with grants to fund their next level qualifications. Applications for coaching grants available through the scheme will reopen in 2014, visit www.facebook.com/GilletteUK for more details.