Ben Ainslie off to flying start in America’s Cup challenge

Sir Ben Ainslie says he has thrown down a challenge to rivals after claiming the opening America's Cup World Series regatta

By James Toney in Portsmouth

Sir Ben Ainslie believes he has thrown down a challenge to rivals after claiming the opening Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series regatta in Portsmouth.

Winds in excess of 30 mph forced organisers to cancel racing on Sunday, meaning Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR team took the opening regatta of their campaign thanks to first and second places 24 hours earlier.

It’s a great start and you can imagine what it would be like to host the actual America’s Cup here in Portsmouth

Ben Ainslie

America’s Cup officials take no risks when it comes to the safety of these flying boats, which raise themselves off the water on hi-tech foils and soar through the air at speeds of up to 40mph.

And Ainslie certainly had no complaints about the decision to call off racing.

“If we had raced then boats would have probably capsized and people would have got hurt and injured – you can’t mess around with these boats. They are very powerful and if they get out of control then it’s absolute carnage,” he said.

“It’s a real shame that mother nature has intervened but it’s absolutely the right decision when you see the conditions out there. We have a wind limit of 25 knots for a reason and it was clearly beyond that.

“We’ve been training against these teams all week and things have gone very well for us and we were delighted with our results on the first day. We would have liked to race with more wind and we feel strong in those conditions but we can’t do anything about it.

“It’s a great start and you can imagine what it would be like to host the actual America’s Cup here in Portsmouth and what a great race course this is.”

Four-time Olympic champion Ainslie is looking to bring the America’s Cup, the oldest trophy in international sport, back to British shores for the first time in its 164 year history and certainly laid down a good marker for his rivals with his performances on home waters.

The challenge will now be to build on the performance in this year’s other World Series regattas in Gothenburg and Bermuda, which will host the decisive Challenger Series and America’s Cup races in 2017.

However, so much could change in the months aheads as other syndicates, including defending champions Oracle Team USA and beaten finalists Emirates Team New Zealand, only refine and improve.

“We’ve got momentum heading into Gothenburg now. It gives every one in the team a lot of belief because they are working incredibly long hours at the moment,” added Ainslie.

“It’s the first time we’ve all raced together and we’ve put on a good show and that’s a great sign for the future. We’ve seen the potential now.”

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