Ben Ainslie: Most exciting racing I've tried

Ben Ainslie: Most exciting racing I've tried

Saturday August 25 2012 Author: Ben Ainslie BAR Location: United States

Today was the toughest day for us so far. The schedule itself kept us busy with a match race against the Kiwis and then two fleet races in a fair bit of breeze, so it was always going to be a demanding day.

We had to beat the Kiwis to stay in the match racing as this is a knockout series. But of course Dean and his crew are among the most experienced and proficient in the fleet, so beating them was always going to be tough. Even so, it was pretty disappointing to mess up the start and end up down tide of the line which then made us late. I was really hoping to have a bit more of a battle with Dean, but from that position it was always going to be tough to get back in contention.

Having said that, we did close the gap from around 100m to a couple of boat lengths by the first leeward gate rounding, but then we pushed on just that bit too far into the shore to get out of the tide, but also out of the wind. I hold my hand up to that one too. I know I keep saying it, but you really don’t have to make much of a mistake to be punished hard. From just a couple of boat lengths to over 100m in less than thirty seconds. We never recovered from that.

The fleet racing was equally tough. We had a reasonable start in the first race but then struggled to find clear air and a lane on the downwind leg and dropped back deeper into the pack. It’s really difficult to fight back from here. The usual issues of dirty air are compounded by the speed differentials between boats that are on the boil and those that are struggling to break free. For every second you are struggling at 10 knots or less after a tricky tack or gybe, the front runners are hammering along at 25knots.

The second fleet race of the day was much better though. We got another reasonable start and managed to maintain that position at the bottom gate. With the tide running against us for the beat it did make the course a bit one sided, but so long as you keep clear wind you can hang in there and pick the shifts.

But once again it’s the pace of the racing that has struck me. The races last around the same time as an Olympic medal race, 30 minutes with roughly the same number of legs, but success here is more about running with the front and not getting dragged back into the pack. If you slip up, clawing your way back is almost impossible.

I suppose I might sound a bit down about today, I’m not, it’s all part of the process and the fact of the matter is that this is some of the most exciting racing I’ve tried. There’s a long way to go and sure, I didn’t expect to be last, but I didn’t expect to be winning either.

Thanks for the support

Ben

Photos below by Jon Nash/© Jon Nash / J.P.Morgan BAR

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