TO THE CORE

Sailing World - - Contents - BY BOB FISHER

The Brits lost the Cup long ago but have the goods to get it back.

IT COULD HARDLY BE more de­lib­er­ate to dis­play the Bri­tish na­tion­al­ity of an Amer­ica’s Cup team than to rep­re­sent the Royal Yacht Squadron, the club that has been redo­lent of Bri­tish yacht­ing since its for­ma­tion in 1815 and the provider of the very tro­phy that is the ob­ject of this com­pe­ti­tion and the ob­ses­sion of many. Its very con­nec­tion with the RYS has en­sured fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity, par­tic­u­larly be­cause it has in­ter­ested the younger mem­bers of the Royal Fam­ily — who would refuse to sup­port an in­ter­est of the Duchess of Cam­bridge? The team’s be­hav­ior, on and off the course, has a de­gree of im­pec­ca­bil­ity about it, as one would ex­pect of one with such back­ground.

Led by four-time Olympic gold medal­ist, Sir Ben Ainslie, Land Rover BAR has max­i­mized its ef­forts to re­tain its na­tion­al­ity in the crew to re­cover the tro­phy its club lost 166 years ago, but not with­out seek­ing the best tal­ent else­where for the few gaps in the team’s makeup.

In his own prepa­ra­tion lead­ing up to this chal­lenge, Ainslie has been part of three other na­tions’ teams ( when there was no Bri­tish team avail­able): One World Chal­lenge, Emi­rates Team New Zealand and Or­a­cle Team USA. Ainslie be­lieves he has gained con­sid­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence from these for­ays, as do many of his team­mates who sought ex­pe­ri­ence when there was not a Bri­tish team in the Cup.

Hav­ing se­cured the nec­es­sary fund­ing, Ainslie has as­sem­bled a sail­ing team rich in tal­ent. He pro­tects this with a de­sign team of im­pec­ca­ble ex­pe­ri­ence in their fields, led by CEO Martin Whit­marsh, a dec­o­rated en­gi­neer with ex­pe­ri­ence in For­mula 1 rac­ing. “It re­lies upon the hun­dred peo­ple in Portsmouth, and sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple else­where,” says Whit­marsh, “be­ing very fo­cused on what we need to do to give Ben the quick­est boat. First of all, we have got to lo­cate and en­cour­age that money to flow into the com­pany,” Whit­marsh con­tin­ues. “Then we have got to make sure that we use it wisely dur­ing the pro­gram it­self to give the sailors a win­ning boat.”

Although he had to miss some of the Amer­ica’s Cup World Se­ries be­cause of his Olympic com­mit­ments (fol­low­ing his skip­per, he won Gold in the Finn), Giles Scott was a nat­u­ral for the role of tac­ti­cian. There ap­peared to be a down­turn in BAR’S per­for­mance in the ACWS when Giles was ab­sent, which should at least con­firm his se­lec­tion is wise.

Sim­i­lar to his skip­per, Scott had been with other teams while cam­paign­ing his Finn, and as 2014 was com­ing to a close, he called Ainslie, of­fer­ing his ser­vices. Two weeks later, he was on the pay­roll but al­lowed to fo­cus on Rio. “To get a shot at an Olympic medal — which I’ve man­aged to do — and then roll straight into the chance of win­ning an Amer­ica’s Cup, not many peo­ple get that chance,” he says.

Matt Corn­wall, known as “Cat Flap” (don’t

In an era al­to­gether lack­ing strictly na­tional teams, Ben Ainslie Rac­ing tips the team’s bal­ance to­ward one of which even Her Majesty will be proud.

ask), be­gan his sail­ing with lo­cal Sea Scouts and re­mem­bers the ex­pe­ri­ence was painful. “We didn’t have a good kit back then: no wet­suit or rub­ber gloves — just woolen gloves un­der wash­ing-up gloves,” he says. Still, com­pet­i­tive sail­ing started when he was 14 on a boat owned by work­ers in a Lyming­ton boatyard. They won the first race. He was hooked.

By the time he fin­ished school and was at col­lege, he re­al­ized there was money to be made in sail­ing. “I thought it would be cool for me to do that for a lit­tle while,” he says. Clearly, the move was a good one.

There is more of in­evitabil­ity about the place of David “Fred­die” Carr. “Rac­ing for the coun­try has been the main­stay of my life ever since I can re­mem­ber,” he says. Hardly sur­pris­ing since many of his early years were spent at the Na­tional Sail­ing Cen­tre, where his fa­ther, Rod (now head of UK Sport), was a coach.

In sum­mer 2007, Sir Keith Mills was as­sem­bling Team Ori­gin, a Bri­tish chal­lenger for AC33, and Carr was one of the early hires. “I signed at the drop of a hat, for the same rea­sons that I signed for Land Rover BAR. It seemed like at 25 I had landed the dream job.”

All looked good un­til the event went to court and the team was paid off, but he spent the next Cup with Luna Rossa, along­side Paul Campbell-james and Max Sirena. Ainslie rang him in late Novem­ber 2013, but he’d signed with Luna Rossa. Now he was con­flicted. “I went for a pint with Dad and I asked: ‘Is it worth the gam­ble? I’m on to this sure thing with Luna Rossa.’ He said to me, ‘Imag­ine how you would feel, hav­ing had the op­por­tu­nity to race with Ben, watch­ing a Bri­tish team win the Amer­ica’s Cup.’ That was it, it’s all he had to say.”

For Ed Powys, there was some­thing nat­u­ral about join­ing this team. His fa­ther, Dave, is the base man­ager, and his mother, Jane, is BAR’S Ber­muda lo­gis­tics co­or­di­na­tor. They met in 1983 when Dave was a trim­mer with the Vic­tory cam­paign and Jane was team founder Peter de Savary’s per­sonal as­sis­tant. By the time Ed was born, his fa­ther’s re­sume in­cluded other Amer­ica’s Cups.

So Powys was al­ways around sail­ing — first in Lyming­ton, where there was “yacht­ing mem­o­ra­bilia about the home.” When he was 7, he be­gan Op­ti­mist sail­ing and says of it: “It was the first time I prop­erly started do­ing it, go­ing out and hav­ing to do it for my­self. I fig­ured out what it was all about.”

At the ten­der age of 10, Powys was asked to sail with a stu­dent match-rac­ing team that in­cluded cur­rent team­mates, Paul Camp­bel­lJames and David Carr. “It was quite en­ter­tain­ing, be­ing a 10-year-old when they were all 18 — I was ba­si­cally ex­tra bal­last.”

By the time he got to the end of his youth sail­ing ca­reer, Powys lacked the break­through re­sult he needed to get sup­port from the Royal Yacht­ing As­so­ci­a­tion’s Olympic de­vel­op­ment pro­gram. His par­ents stepped in and helped him buy an Olympic 49er, but by then he was at Brunel Univer­sity earn­ing a prod­uct-de­sign de­gree, and the lo­gis­tics were dif­fi­cult.

“I stopped sail­ing. I did a lit­tle bit at the start of Univer­sity, and then the last two years I didn’t re­ally do any. At that stage, I was still fiercely com­pet­i­tive and frus­trated at not be­ing in­volved with all the 49er stuff, although lo­gis­ti­cally and fi­nan­cially it was im­pos­si­ble. I had friends who were do­ing it, and it was al­ways in the back of my mind, ‘ What’s the best way for me to get back into it?’ By now I was verg­ing on be­ing too big to steer, so even though I wasn’t sail­ing at the time, I made the de­ci­sion in my head that I was go­ing to switch and try to do some crew­ing at any op­por­tu­nity.”

Powys joined Dave Evans in late 2009 in the 49er. They were train­ing with Steve Mor­ri­son and Ben Rhodes, gold and sil­ver medal­ists at the World Cham­pi­onships in 2007 and 2008. They worked hard, learned a lot and pro­gressed quickly. Part of Powys’ cred­i­bil­ity is his proven abil­ity in the 49er.

And what of young Nick Hut­ton? He too has the clas­sic back­ground of a home­grown pro­fes­sional sailor. His par­ents took him with them as they cruised their Folk­boat; he honed his skills dinghy sail­ing in Op­ti­mists, then on to Cadets and 420s — the lat­ter as crew for Paul Campbell-james. The Ex­treme se­ries — first with Shirley Robert­son and then with Luna Rossa team — was his tran­si­tion into mul­ti­hull rac­ing. His em­ploy­ment by Richard Bran­son as an in­struc­tor on Necker Is­land, how­ever, gave him an op­por­tu­nity to seek ad­vice from the bil­lion­aire: the Bri­tish team or an of­fer from Luna Rossa? He was asked in re­turn: How would he feel if Ben Ainslie Rac­ing won while he was with the Ital­ians? No ar­gu­ment there.

To keep these and the other sail­ing team mem­bers work­ing as a unit, Ainslie made the in­spired choice of Jono Mac­beth, a New Zealan­der, as sail­ing team man­ager, whose Cup roots go back 20 years to the days of Peter Blake. Ear­lier, he was a per­for­mance ath­lete — not out of place in to­day’s Cup en­vi­ron­ment. He knew from the out­set he wanted sail­ing to be a ca­reer. He moved from Team New Zealand to BMW Or­a­cle for the Deed of Gift match, and stayed with the Amer­i­cans for the next Cup cy­cle. He says his best race was the last race of 2013. “It ful­filled every dream,” he claims, but he could still add to his Cup wins as a sailor, this time as a first re­serve grinder. Q

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