Sir Ben Ainslie Q&A
Ahead of the first race of the 35th America's Cup World Series in Portsmouth, Sir Ben Ainslie spoke about partnering with Land Rover, what makes the Series so special, and what it takes to make it to the pinnacle of the sailing.
Last month, Land Rover and Ben Ainslie Racing announced a global partnership, creating the new Land Rover BAR team to challenge for the 2017 America’s Cup.
The partnership reinforces Land Rover’s long-standing support for sailing, and gives us a chance to showcase the best in British engineering and innovative technology on the world stage.
Ahead of the inaugural America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth, we spoke to the team’s eponymous leader, Sir Ben Ainslie, about his excitement for the Land Rover BAR team, why he loves sailing, and why it’s Britain’s turn to win the oldest trophy in sport.
Land Rover: Tell us about the new partnership between BAR and Land Rover: how it came about, and why it’s exciting for you and the team?
Sir Ben Ainslie: Land Rover are a premier British brand, and are a leader in advanced engineering, design and technology in their field – just like us. Land Rover has a long history of supporting sailing, so were an obvious potential partner to talk to, and the synergies are terrific – I think that’s why it’s so exciting. It is a great opportunity to work with them and share our expertise to sharpen our performance, we know that together we will develop race-winning technology for our America’s Cup Class boat.
What expertise do you think Land Rover has been able to lend to the team when developing the boat for the 2017 America’s Cup?
The Jaguar Land Rover Advanced Engineering team has vast experience in research and development, and our partnership with them will allow us to look at many aspects with a fresh eye, enhanced by all the knowledge that they will bring from the automotive industry.
How have the preparations for the first America’s Cup race been going? Are you confident of a strong start in Portsmouth?
The preparations have been going well. Obviously there is a tremendous amount to do, as we have only just moved into our new home on the Camber in Portsmouth, but we feel strong and are confident of a good start to the 35th America’s Cup.
“Land Rover are a premier British brand, and are a leader in advanced engineering, design and technology in their field – just like us.”
What can we expect from the Portsmouth race and how will British conditions affect the race?
The thing about British conditions is that they are very variable. We could have light winds, or a strong sea breeze, or rain and a gale – you never know. We must be ready for anything, and perhaps that’s our strength as the home team, to be flexible.
Britain has never won the America’s Cup. What are the key skills you think you need to succeed this time around?
The new class of boat for the America’s Cup is a foiling multihull. This has made the design and engineering aspects of this Cup much more important that the previous editions in the old monohull boats. The support of companies like Land Rover, with their strong design and engineering traditions, will go a long way to making the difference in what will be a very technical contest.
What makes the America’s Cup so special?
The America’s Cup is part of British Maritime history. The competition started here in the UK with a race around the Isle of Wight in 1851, but of course we have never won it. It is crazy, really. For me, it’s the one last hurdle in international sport that Britain has never crossed. So to set it straight would be a huge achievement, something that we are all working incredibly hard to pull off.
What do you love about sailing – and how did you first get into it?
I started sailing in an Optimist [a small, single-handed sailing dinghy] when I was 8 years old at Restronguet Creek in Cornwall. Growing up I was shy, so for me sailing was my release, I could be more confident on the water and then I found a real passion for it and it grew from there.
“The America’s Cup is part of British Maritime history. Winning it is the one last hurdle in international sport that Britain has never crossed, so to set it straight would be a huge achievement.”
What advice would you give to young sailors who want to emulate you? What skills do you need to make it to the top?
I think the main thing is you have to put the time in. Whether it’s on the water or in the gym, get as much experience as you can. Preparation is crucial to success and that takes commitment and dedication. In terms of what it takes to make it to the top, I think it’s a combination of natural talent, passion for what you do, commitment and working hard. It also requires great team work, there are a so many elements involved in a project like this, from the design side to the marketing and commercial aspect, as well as the sailing itself, so working efficiently and as a strong team is critical. Competing at events such as the Olympics or the America’s Cup requires a huge commitment, it means time away from home, missing out on events with friends and family and long days preparing for the competition ahead, so you have to be dedicated to the task.
You’ve won an incredible four Olympic gold medals. But what’s your single proudest moment in sailing to date?
That’s a tough one, winning Olympic Gold at London 2012 was a huge moment. To sail and win on home soil with so many friends and family there was pretty special.