Double delight as Ainslie's crew are best BAR none
Sir Ben Ainslie paid tribute to his Land Rover BAR crew after the home favourites kept their cool under pressure to deliver America's Cup glory in Portsmouth.
In a memorable weekend’s racing on the Solent, Ainslie & Co held their nerve in a dramatic final race to claim a regatta victory margin of one point over defending champions ORACLE Team USA.
In doing so, BAR also clinched the overall World Series lead as next year’s finals in Bermuda grow ever closer.
Having impressed on Saturday, bar a slip-up in their opening race, the British boat topped the event leaderboard heading into yesterday’s racing.
And with double-points on offer in all three races, BAR carried on their winning momentum with a third successive victory in race four.
That saw them join Emirates Team New Zealand as co-leaders of the overall world series.
But success for defenders ORACLE meant BAR’s winning momentum ended in race five as they settled for second spot.
The Americans, who began the regatta in joint-second spot with the hosts, were now only three points behind them.
That set up an intriguing final race shootout, with Ainslie & Co knowing they could not let ORACLE finish more than one place in front of them.
Second spot would seal it.
And with the defenders getting off to another fast start, it was the required outcome as BAR dug deep to fight off both Emirates and Team SoftBank Japan for the all-important runners-up spot.
For proud Ainslie, it was a pressure scenario to savour.
He said: ‘It was a massive moment for us.
‘When the pressure is on, personally that is what I enjoy the most.
‘And the guys rose to that pressure.
‘This America’s Cup World Series means a huge amount so to get the job done we are really proud.’
While the event commentary team wrongly announced to a packed out Southsea shoreline that only a race win would result in regatta glory for BAR, skipper Ainslie had done his maths.
Unfortunately for him, so had great rival Jimmy Spithill – his ORACLE counterpart.
Ainslie said: ‘We knew we had to just finish one place behind ORACLE, but they were making life hard for us!
‘ORACLE were putting the pressure on us to hold on.
‘But our guys did an incredible job sailing the boat and that was really the difference.’
As home favourites, Ainslie was certainly not expecting any favours from any of the other boats in the fleet – a fact that made his team’s victory even sweeter.
He added: ‘We are sailing against the best teams in the world and they are not going to make it easy!
‘When you have five of them bearing down on you, I can tell you it is pretty full on!
‘Sailing in the America’s Cup boats – it is the ultimate team sport.
‘We did a huge job all weekend so I am just delighted for the whole team really and for Portsmouth.
‘For us to perform and win in front of the home crowd, with all of the support they have given us, means a huge amount.’