America’s Cup 2021: Sir Ben Ainslie hits out at Challenger of Record over Prada Cup schedule stance

Sir Ben Ainslie believes that the unsuccessful move to shift the Prada Cup final last week was justified, as the public of New Zealand deserve the best possible event.

The Ineos Team UK skipper was disappointed with the hardline stance of the Challenger of Record, who insisted the original schedule needed to be maintained, in the face of attempts by America’s Cup Events (ACE) to delay the resumption until Auckland reverted to Covid-19 alert level 1.

It descended into a public spat, which took some gloss off what has been a wonderful event this summer.

“I’ve been disappointed with what has been going on,” said Ainslie. “It doesn’t sit real well with me, knowing what has gone on before. I just think it is a load of nonsense to be honest.

“We have had an amazing event here and there was a move from ACE to try and delay the racing to a point where we had level 1 so the spectators could be on the shoreline and watching the racing.

“Given what New Zealand have done in accommodating us and welcoming us here I thought frankly it was the least we could do as competitors.

“It was a shame that for whatever reason we weren’t able to do that and everything that went on with that…all the tit for tat, it has gone on long enough really.”

Ainslie cut a defiant figure on Saturday night, after finally banking a win in this series. The British still face an intimidating 5-1 deficit, but they aren’t giving up.

“I hope so,” said Ainslie, when asked if it could be the start of something. “If we had lost that second race, we will be in real dire straits, one away from elimination, so it’s good momentum for the team.”

Ainslie is no stranger to difficult spots, either in the America’s Cup or at the Olympics and says the revival recipe doesn’t change.

“All those experiences, when you are on the back foot, you just know, for one, you can’t give up,” said Ainslie. “You just need to try and keep your processes going and stick to what you have developed as team and an organisation.

“We have been through some tough times already in this particular event and we didn’t give up and kept working on trying to improve and get better and as long as you are in the game then you have got a chance.”

The starting duels have been the deciding factor in this series so far, with limited opportunity for lead changes in the steady wind. It has been hit and miss for Ineos Team UK, but Ainslie said they will continue their aggressive approach on Sunday, with mid-range breezes expected.

“The pre-starts are about risk and reward,” said Ainslie. “If you feel like you need to go for it because you need an advantage then you are [also] prepared to risk losing the start.

“We have been pushing the starts hard because we feel we need to make something happen. An even start is not going to cut it right now.”

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