It’s the kind of publicity that would have given a big boost to Sir Ben Ainslie’s bid to get his America’s Cup campaign up and running. But it was Emirates Team New Zealand who benefited from global media coverage as they hosted a match race on some old Version 5 keelboats between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The Duchess, who did a bit of sailing in her youth in Berkshire, whopped William 2-0, and Kate gave her husband a cheeky victory salute as they headed back to harbour in Auckland.
Sir Ben has been out sailing with Kate’s sister, Pippa, as it happens. But mostly he’s been focused on competing in the Extreme Sailing Series in Singapore and Oman, with Qingdao next on the global tour, the venue where he won his third Olympic gold medal back in 2008.
I’ve been doing some TV commentary for the Extremes, alongside David ‘Freddie’ Carr who raced as a grinder with Luna Rossa in last year’s Louis Vuitton Cup in San Francisco. Freddie resigned from the Italian team to join Ben Ainslie Racing at the beginning of the year. He’s even got a B.A.R. branded notebook. When you print your own stationery, clearly you’re serious about your Cup campaign! And the Extremes are a great place for catching up on Cup gossip, with Sir Ben seen in a huddle with fellow Cup aspirant Frank Cammas and Iain Murray, who now heads up Team Australia, the official Challenger of Record.
The British team has been scoping out some south coast venues to set up its base, and Portsmouth is looking like the most likely bet. Ainslie has done an incredible job to bring his campaign this far, the seed funding appears to be in place, and now he just needs to tell his backers what, when and where he will be racing!
Unfortunately the venue choice for the 35th America’s Cup continues to drag along. Seven months since the conclusion of the last Cup and we still don’t know. San Diego appears to be one of the favourites from a shortlist that is also believed to include Hawaii, Chicago and Newport, Rhode Island. Great venues as they all could be, for pure spectacle and reliability of good breeze, I can’t see any of them matching San Francisco. So it’s a shame if San Fran is out of the picture. Or is it? By playing hard to get, have Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts convinced the city to revise its terms for another go at hosting the Cup? I hope so.
Also nearing publication are the plans for the new boat design, which it’s thought will be around 62 feet, and fully foiling like last year’s AC72. The US multihull design team of Morrelli & Melvin were involved in formulating the AC72 design rule, and have been invited back to do the same for the new boat. Gino Morrelli says reducing the size from 72 to 62 feet will reduce the loads by half, and reduce the structural costs too. Yet he predicts it will be similar in downwind speed to its bigger sister, and not that much slower upwind. One of the key benefits is that the 62-footer will be designed to hydrofoil from the outset, whereas it was only the ingenuity of the Kiwi design team that found a way around the AC72 rule which was drawn up with the very intention of preventing foiling.
Predicted to need a crew of just eight compared with 11 for an AC72, the new design should be a much less compromised boat, and easier to sail. Easy enough for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to race against each other? Give it a few years, and let’s see!
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