Ainslie brushes off banter as hosts get ready for battle

Sir Ben Ainslie's Land Rover BAR team and big rivals Oracle Team USA. Picture: Sarah Standing (151309-8816)
Sir Ben Ainslie's Land Rover BAR team and big rivals Oracle Team USA. Picture: Sarah Standing (151309-8816)
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SIR BEN AINSLIE has dismissed rival skipper Jimmy Spithill’s assertion Land Rover BAR are the team to beat in this weekend’s America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth as ‘friendly banter’.

But the most successful sailor in Olympic history has insisted his Old Portsmouth-based team are well prepared for a shot at glory on home territory – following an extensive training regime both on and off the water.

Ainslie and Spithill know each other very well – having teamed up in the last edition of the America’s Cup for a remarkable victory with Oracle Team USA.

The Americans were trailing rivals Emirates New Zealand 8-1 in the first-to-nine showdown before claiming eight successive victories to clinch 2013 glory in San Francisco.

And for four-time Olympic gold-medallist Ainslie, it is no surprise his former team-mate – who leads the Defenders’ bid to retain the Auld Mug – has turned the pre-race spotlight on him.

Speaking to The News at yesterday’s launch of the America’s Cup World Series, he said: ‘That’s just a bit of friendly banter, I think.

‘Jimmy is well known for trying to talk people up in the press but for us we realise how tough all of the teams are – particularly Team Oracle as Defender.

‘They are the guys we all want and have to beat if we want to bring the cup back.’

And 38-year-old Ainslie believes his side have had the best possible preparation to become the competition’s first British winners.

He said: ‘It has gone really well. We couldn’t have asked for a better preparation.

‘The guys have worked incredibly hard on and off the water – both in the gym with Ben Williams our fitness trainer and then Jono Macbeth our sailing team manager, who has had us out on the water day in, day out.

‘We have had more time than the other teams and we feel well prepared.

‘But ultimately we have to go out and prove that on the day.’

Ainslie is predicting an ‘incredibly close’ affair on the Solent this weekend and has promised the introduction of foiling to this year’s racing will be an incredible addition for competitors and supporters alike.

The skipper said: ‘The boats are all the same.

‘They have been supplied for this series and the boat speed will be very, very similar. It will really come down to the teams – how they sail the boat and how they handle the boat. It will be incredibly close racing.

‘These boats will be foiling around at up to 30 or 40 mph, nose to tail.

‘For the sailors it is incredible but for the spectators, both on the TV and live here on the shoreline, they are going to get a real thrill watching this.’

And Ainslie admits there would be no better feeling than to lead Land Rover BAR to victory on a home course he rates as one of the best in the world.

He said: ‘It is one of the best courses in the world, particularly in that south-westerly breeze we so often get.

‘To have a finish line you could be screening in through the harbour entrance – I can’t think of many places in the world as good as that.’

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