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America's Cup World Series - Ainslie gives Chicago a big tick
Land Rover BAR - Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Chicago - Racing Day 2 © ACEA / Ricardo Pinto http://photo.americascup.com/

America’s Cup World Series

Sir Ben Ainslie, four times Olympic Gold medalist and skipper/CEO of British America’s Cup team Land Rover BAR, has come away pleased with the outcome of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Chicago.

After giving the last event in New York a spray in the Daily Telegraph (UK) Ainslie was pleased with both his team’s performance, and the Chicago event itself.

He writes:

I was really pleased with the way we sailed. Some razor-sharp starts, a strong win in the first race on Sunday, a battling fourth in the second, and a brilliant second place in the final race of the weekend, which saw us come back from a penalty to snatch two places on the line. That late charge proved crucial to take us up to second overall in the Series, level on points with Oracle Team USA and just 10 points behind Emirates Team New Zealand at the top of the standings.

It has certainly set things up for our home regatta in Portsmouth at the end of next month. We won on home waters last year and we know that course pretty well so we’re hoping to make home advantage count again.

More than that, though, the weekend in Chicago was satisfying because it showed our sport at its best.

America's Cup World Series - Ainslie gives Chicago a big tick

Land Rover BAR – Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Chicago – Racing Day 2 © ACEA / Ricardo Pinto http://photo.americascup.com/

I don’t know how many cats we must have collectively run over but we have been so unlucky with the weather in the Louis Vuitton World Series so far. But, yesterday with the race course set very tight and full foiling conditions, the sailing was so physical. The guys were absolutely shattered by the end of the day, as they should be.

Everyone was exhausted on Sunday night, though, excited and enthused by the day we had just had.

Chicago, like New York last month, is a special place. We were over for a few days before the regatta and had a great time soaking it all in, doing a few talk shows, a skills-swap session with the Chicago Bulls player Bobby Portis It is the type of place we want to be competing and showcasing our sport and attracting new fans, so it was great to be able to give them something to shout about.

There is a real feeling – as our CEO Martin Whitmarsh said in an interview we did jointly with this newspaper last week – that we are on the verge of something special with the America’s Cup at the moment. As teams, we need to support the ACEA (Americas Cup Event Authority) in refining and tweaking what we already have.

As that interview highlighted, discussions are ongoing about making the Cup into a biennial event, with more teams and a simplified World Series which would see the same ‘Cup class’ of boat used throughout the series as in the finals.

I fully support those proposals. My view is that there was a seismic shift in the sport in 2013 when the America’s Cup moved to foiling multihulls. For the first time probably since 1983 and the famous Cup in Fremantle in those 12-metres, there was mainstream interest in the sport again. San Francisco changed everything. It opened up our eyes to the fact that we could have a dynamic mainstream sport.

The current proposals are a continuation of that trend – shorter, faster, more physical, compacted into a 2hr window.

America's Cup World Series - Ainslie gives Chicago a big tick

Land Rover BAR – Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Chicago – Racing Day 2 © ACEA / Ricardo Pinto http://photo.americascup.com/

Some traditionalists would obviously prefer still to be racing around in beautiful J-class yachts and I can sympathise. But I think if you are going down this route, you have to do it properly.

The America’s Cup has to remain the pinnacle of sailing if it wants to attract commercial partners. By developing such extraordinary high-performance boats, we can pioneer systems and technologies that will trickle down to the wider sailing industry in much the same way Formula One does with the road car industry.

Coming from a sport as commercially successful as Formula One, Martin has really brought a fresh perspective to these discussions. I think traditionally sailors in the America’s Cup get bogged down with the Deed of Gift and all the history and actually someone with a fresh perspective can help support the ACEA and say ‘this is possible’.

Anyway, while those talks continue in the background, we will get our heads down and prepare for Portsmouth.

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by Sail-World.com NZL

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