Monday, April 19, 2010

Busy year ahead

Ben Ainslie Blog

It was really pleasing to finally get a result in the two-and-half year America's Cup saga in Valencia in February.

I was fortunate to be in Spain for the Deed of Gift match between defenders Alinghi and challengers BMW Oracle as I was there Finn training for a week.

It was an amazing spectacle, the boats were incredible feats of design and engineering and it was a fascinating learning experience seeing some of the technology involved up close. As a competition BMW Oracle's use of the 'wing' technology meant it was something of a mismatch but it was just such a relief to finally see the event staged and now we can start looking forward to what BMW Oracle, as the new defenders, will propose as the format for the 34th America's Cup.

There's inevitably a lot of rumour and speculation already doing the rounds about where and when the Cup will be held and what the rules regarding the boats will be. One of the more interesting suggestions is that t he Cup won't now happen until 2014 and if that is the case then it certainly leaves all of the teams with a lot of time to prepare their teams and design a new boat to new Americas Cup class rule.

I'm still managing to strike a suitable balance between progressing my 2012 Finn campaign and my desire to win the America's Cup with TEAMORIGIN.

The week I spent in Valencia training with my coach David Howlett working on some of the technical aspects of the boat development. We had Simon Holloway from PI Research, who incidentally does a lot of work helping with the data collection and analysis for F1, down to help with collecting some performance data which we can then pass on to Juan Guaray our Argentinean sail designer. The whole process is fascinating and the technology we are using, whilst on a small scale, is similar to what we will use in the Americas Cup future.

Because my schedule is pretty full on I'm completely reliant on my coach David Howlett set ting the tone of the training camps and making sure the boat is ready for me to just step into and sail. The camps and practices have to be really well structured with very clear objectives to make sure I get the most out of the limited time I have to sail the Finn. David's ongoing role in this is vital.

Since first getting back in the Finn, after 18 months out of the boat, last December we've made some really pleasing progress. Despite the break the boat hasn't ever felt alien to me, which was a pleasant surprise, and we know where we're going in terms of the technical side and what work we want to do with our sail designers. I go back to Valencia later this month to keep things ticking along on that front.

I'm still hoping to compete at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta at Weymouth and Portland in August as I want to gather as much information as possible about the conditions and venue. But the real focus will shift back to my Finn campaign in the winter 2010 when I plan to head to the Southern Hemisphere for three or four months' serious training and boat tuning. This will be when I start getting my body weight back up and really working on the boat and sail design to go into the 2011 season fully competitive.

There's an awful lot of sailing to be done before then, however, with the Audi Medcup TP52 Circuit starting in Cascais, Portugal on May 11 plus a number of World Match Racing Tour events and the next WSTA Louis Vuitton Trophy event in Italy in May that TEAMORIGIN will be competing in.

In many ways we've punched below our weight in terms of our WTSA LV Trophy event results so far and the last event in Auckland was especially disappointing as again it was silly mistakes which cost us. The hard stuff we're getting right but we need to iron out the small errors to start getting the results.

We had a great weekend racing Charles Dunstone's TP52 Rio at the RORC Easter Regatta. Some of the team are relativel y inexperienced in TP52s so getting quality racing time together in often tricky Solent conditions was really invaluable. By the last day our communication and teamwork at the back of the boat particularly was much crisper and we're looking forward to the Audi MedCup now.

Just last week we competed in the first of the World Match Racing Tour Regattas in Marseille. We finished second to local hero Mathieu Richard but it was a good result for us especially as we had not raced in the J80 class of boat before. I was racing with Matt Cornwell, Iain Percy and Christian Kamp. We make a good team and importantly we really enjoy sailing together.

Also I'm looking forward to the 2010 J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race on June 19. This is always such a fantastic spectacle; so many different types of boat and people take part it's really enjoyable. It also gets lots of media attention and whereas sailing often gets a bad rap for being difficult to follow, t he RTIR course is very easy to understand, which is good for the sport's profile. -