This weekend sees the seventh series of America’s Cup racing take to the shores of Portsmouth, as Sir Ben Ainslie and his team Land Rover BAR fight to bring the historic cup back to Great Britain.
Thousands of sailing fans are set to descend on Portsmouth over the coming days — a very welcome economic boost for the city in a time of financial uncertainty.
At an official press launch for the 2016 Portsmouth regatta today — which will be fought in the historically-rich seas of the Solent off the coast of Southsea — Sir Ben and his team looked confident ahead of what promises to be another amazing spectacle.
Sir Ben Ainslie said: “Last year was massive for us, so to be able to come out and win the event in front of the home crowd was amazing — we’d love to repeat that again this year!
“The guys are really up for putting on a good show for the home crowd, especially as it’s the last time we’ll be racing in the UK before the America’s Cup next year in Bermuda.”
Currently, Sir Ben and his crew are in second place on 285 points, just behind Team New Zealand (295) and tied with Jimmy Spithill of the cupholders Oracle Team USA.
Confidence is high amongst the Land Rover BAR team, but current leading Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Glenn Ashby says that his team’s morale has not been knocked by their poor performance in Chicago, and that they fully expect to emerge victorious from the Portsmouth regatta.
Speaking to the world’s press today, Ashby said: “The race is Chicago was fantastic for us and we learn’t a lot from the event. We gave it our best and unfortunately on that occasion it wasn’t enough.
“The regatta in Portsmouth is a totally different kettle of fish. We have two new members of crew on board this weekend and we haven’t really had many hours of practice out on the water together as a group. Despite this, we’ll certainly be looking to push these guys all the way during racing and retain top spot on the overall standings!”
Sir Ben was also posed the question of how Land Rover BAR would end a 165-year stint of the UK not winning the America’s Cup. In answering, he insisted this time would be different, saying: “Everyone involved in the America’s Cup knows how complex the event is.
“To be successful, you have to get a number of aspects of preparation and racing all right at the same time. As you mention, we’ve had many great sailors who’ve challenged to regain the cup including, perhaps most famously, Thomas Lipton back in the early 20th century.
“This time we’ve tried to approach the challenge slightly differently, with experts who’ve emerged from various past campaigns and specialists from all fields, such as Martin Whitmarsh, who’s joined us from the world-beating F1 Mclaren team.
“We also created a state-of-the-art, sustainable base here in Portsmouth. All these factors are helping us to move towards our goal of winning the cup and bringing it back to Britain.
“We’re working incredibly hard. It doesn’t mean that overall we’ll be successful, but I can guarantee everyone that if we don’t do it this time, we’ll keep trying until we are successful — that’s what motivates us all.”
Watch all the racing as it unfolds this weekend for free along Southsea seafront. Racing will take place on Saturday and Sunday between 1:30pm and 3:00pm.