Team GB Olympic sailing squad member Ben Ainslie poses for photographs at the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich in south east London September 20, 2011. - Reuters
 
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Sailing

Ainslie: London 2012, then America's Cup

Ainslie: London 2012, then America's Cup

By Reuters
Last update The 10/01/2012 at 14:01 -
By Reuters - The 10/01/2012 at 14:01
Britain's most successful Olympic sailor Ben Ainslie has set out a long-term aim of challenging for the America's Cup after the London Games without ruling out another bid for gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The 34-year-old, who will be going for his fourth successive Olympic gold and fifth medal this year, revealed his plans at a news conference alongside Oracle Racing CEO and four times America's Cup winner Russell Coutts.

Announcing the launch of a new Ben Ainslie Racing team, he said the short-term plan was to compete in the America's Cup World Series, a stand-alone and more spectator-friendly championship designed to fill the gap between Cups.

"I have to be very clear, we have absolutely no intention whatsoever of competing as a challenger for the 34th America's Cup," he said.

"It's just not realistic in the time frame that we have in terms of putting the team together and designing and building an AC72 (wingsail catamaran). But we very much hope to be a challenger in the future with the 35th America's Cup."

The 34th America's Cup will be held next year in San Francisco, the home of Oracle Corp's billionaire chief executive Larry Ellison whose BMW Oracle team won the event in races off Valencia, Spain, in February 2010.

Ainslie, who has three previous America's Cup campaigns under his belt, will join Coutts at Oracle for the team's title defence.

"The America's Cup without Ben would be a little bit like Wimbledon without Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic," said New Zealander Coutts.

"I'd rather be racing with Ben than against Ben," he added.

A five-times world Finn champion, and winner of two Olympic Finn golds and one in the Laser dinghy, Ainslie will become the most successful Olympic sailor from any nation if he wins another gold.

He said the America's Cup plans would not be a distraction from the Olympics and would not necessarily mean the end of his Olympic career either.

"I'm not getting any younger but a lot depends on the classes for 2016, what are eventually selected, and a little bit how things go in the summer," he said.

Ainslie also faced questions about his diving skills, a dig at his disqualification from the world championships in Perth in December when he dived into water and then boarded a media boat to confront the crew for impeding his progress.

"It certainly wasn't the greatest moment of my sailing career," he said.

"It was a very regrettable incident...the issue is in the hands of the Royal Yachting Association, so it's really down to them now to decide what the next step is. I obviously regret hugely what happened.

"People seem to forget that the result was that I lost the world championship after an incredibly tough series and that was absolutely gut-wrenching."

 
 

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