Monday 20 November 2017

Ben Ainslie dedicates amazing America's Cup comeback win to tragic pal

Oracle Team USA tactician Sir Ben Ainslie (C) holds the America's Cup trophy
Oracle Team USA tactician Sir Ben Ainslie (C) holds the America's Cup trophy

Ben Ainslie dedicated Oracle Team USA's extraordinary win to Andrew Simpson after the Briton helped pull off the greatest comeback in America's Cup history.

British Olympian Simpson, known as Bart, was killed in a training accident in May, an event which so shocked the sport that there were questions over whether the 34th America's Cup would even take place.

Instead a raft of safety measures were introduced into a competition which Oracle seemed to have thrown away any chance of winning when Emirates Team New Zealand led 8-1 needing just one more win to lift the trophy.

The struggling American team reacted by bringing Ainslie on board in place of tactician John Kostecki and he helped to bring about a remarkable turnaround, culminating in Wednesday's victory in San Francisco Bay which gave them a 9-8 victory.

Quoted by the Daily Mail, Ainslie said: "I looked up to the stars after it all settled down at the end and thought of Bart. In some ways this was for him. He loved sailing and he loved the America's Cup. He would have been so excited about this series.

"It was emotional. It has been a hard few months with his death and all that followed it. He has been in my mind. Unfortunately, my mum and dad couldn't be here. My mum (Sue) is sick in hospital. It is nothing too serious but my poor dad (Roddy) has had to look after her. Hopefully this has put a smile on her face.

"This is the most amazing thing I have ever been involved in. When you are in the Olympics you are doing it on your own. You can enjoy the success but you can only let yourself down. This is more rewarding, doing it in a team. You can share this."

The hosts faced an uphill task after being docked two penalty points, meaning they were 8-1 down last week despite having won three races.

That Oracle clawed their way back was in no small part thanks to Great Britain's four-time Olympic gold medallist Ainslie, who was brought in when the team ditched tactician Kostecki.

It was a devastating blow to the New Zealand team, who had been backed by fervent support back home but were given almost no chance to seal the final point they needed thanks to a combination of the weather and the American team's improved form.

Dean Barker's crew's best chance of victory came on Friday when they led in light winds, before the race was abandoned with the 40-minute time limit having passed.

New Zealand again led in Wednesday's decider, but it proved short lived as the American surged past them with vastly superior speed on the upwind leg.

"Everyone had written us off," Ainslie said. "The opposition had written us off. The experts had written us off.

"I never gave up hope but I knew it would be hard. When I came in everyone was a bit down but I was a new face and that gave everyone a lift. I tried to be Mr Positive and we gelled well."

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