Shortly after clinching the ISAF World Match Racing Championship, “King” Ben Ainslie talked to Valencia about his victory, what it meant and what the future has in store for Britain’s most acclaimed sailor.
Valencia Sailing: Is this the happiest moment in your sailing career?
Ben Ainslie: Without any doubt it’s one of them. It’s very hard to compare with the success in the Olympics personally. I think that the interesting thing with personal success and success with a team is that it’s actually more rewarding with a team because you have guys to share it with you. It’s a collective effort. If you win in the Olympics or in something on your own you are obviously proud of yourself but it’s just your own effort. Here it’s fantastic to be able to share something like this with friends, mates and a very strong team. It’s kind of a different feeling but after what has been a very difficult year for us it’s a very good way to end things.
Valencia Sailing: The “difficult year” has been something you have repeatedly referred to during the press conferences in the Monsoon Cup. Why is it so?
Ben Ainslie: Our goal as a team, and the real reason we were match racing or sailing in the TP52′s, was the buildup to the America’s Cup. We wanted to have a strong team, working with designers building TP52′s, with the sailing team in that class and then in the World Match Racing Tour developing our match racing skills. For that all to be taken away was obviously extremely disappointing. It’s been a tough call for us to come here and turn the tables on Minoprio and Richard in the World Championship and the Monsoon Cup. This says a lot about a team in a very positive way to end the season. A lot of people would have just walked away from it after Sir Keith decided we weren’t going to go ahead. We stuck with it and we now are world champions.
Valencia Sailing: Sir Keith Mills obviously had his reasons when he decided not go ahead with a challenge in this Cup. Do you share his opinion it is extremely difficult to beat BMW Oracle?
Ben Ainslie: I believe it is very, very difficult and I would be incredibly surprised if anyone could beat them in this cycle of the Cup. Just simply because they obviously have the resources and the time is very, very tight. We did a lot of research and we thought we could it but you are already late now! There is only one other team so far that have confirmed their entry. Unfortunately, it’s going to be extremely difficult to beat them and I understand they want to hold on to the America’s Cup. They are the defender and they want to take into a new exciting future with multihulls and wingsails. Honestly, my true feeling is that I don’t know whether they will be successful but I actually hope they will because for me and the rest of the guys here our sailing careers have quite often depended on the America’s Cup. So, it’s very important for us they are successful and they turn it into a great event once again.
Valencia Sailing: If they do have success and it becomes a very successful event for the foreseeable future will that mean you will also personally sail, at some stage, on multihulls?
Ben Ainslie: Absolutely. I don’t know about the rest of the guys but speaking for myself it’s the plan I have. I’m focused on the 2012 Olympics but also to get involved with multihull sailing and start learning about that class of boat and that style of sailing. That’s very important because more than likely the America’s Cup will be on multihulls for the foreseeable future.
Valencia Sailing: Does this mean you will join some Extreme 40 sailing team in the near future?
Ben Ainslie: Yes, I’ve been talking to a couple of teams and I might do some of the racing in 2011 although I will really focus on the Finn sailing next year and try to qualify. It’s going to be very tough in the UK. It is possible though I might end up doing a few of the Extreme Sailing Series.
Valencia Sailing: Have you ever match raced on an Extreme 40?
Ben Ainslie: No, never. but I think it’s going to be a very different type of match racing. I don’t think you’ll see this sort of tight, close, contact situations we had here. The start will be pretty critical and I think there will be some pretty big gains and losses off the start line and from there it will be all about defending your lead. The pressure differences in multihulls make a much bigger difference than they do in monohulls so their might be some opportunities for the boat behind downwind but I think that the start and the first beat will be super critical, only the distances between the boats will be greater.
Valencia Sailing: If again it turns out to be a very successful event, not only in this edition but for a number of editions, do you envisage a “DNA shift” in the sport of sailing where their “environment” is not made up of Optis, Finns or TP52′s but Hobie cats, Tornados and Extreme40′s?
Ben Ainslie: I don’t think so because the multihulls aren’t something new, neither is the wingmast.
Valencia Sailing: Definitely, but it is the very first time they are in the sport’s pinnacle event.
Ben Ainslie: That’s correct but you know people that want to be involved with the America’s Cup will have to learn those boats and skills but most kids, when they are learning to sail the first thing they are looking forward is grabbing the youth championships and the Olympics. Multihulls might come into the Olympic games but in total they will be in monohulls in the foreseeable future. I don’t see a huge shift in the sport.
Valencia Sailing: Talking about the Olympics you didn’t sound overly optimistic about your position in the UK team. Did I get that wrong?
Ben Ainslie: Well, your place is never guaranteed. It isn’t the America’s Cup. Just because you won the Olympics it doesn’t mean you have a guaranteed entry. We have a very strong squad in the UK with 4-5 guys in the top 10 of the world and it’s going to be tough. I’m obviously optimistic and I’m very positive about the next 6 months and the fitness, training and racing I have to do in order to get back to the top level for the regattas next summer which are going to be key to my qualifications.
Valencia Sailing: Last but not least, is it too early too talk about the 2016 Games?
Ben Ainslie: Yes, very early! However, I love sailing in Rio, I have sailed there a few times for Finn and Laser championships and I loved it.