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Another man on Ainslie’s team with the right credentials is Giles Scott, winner of the Finn class gold medal in Rio last summer. “It was the first time in 24 years I’ve actually watched the Olympics on TV,” says Ainslie. “Giles’ win was fully deserved. It was a proud moment for all of us.” He is keen to stress, however, that his team is not built on “the billionaire model”: going out with an open cheque book and signing the best talent, throwing them together and expecting it to work. This is a team of talented grinders, not galacticos.

Sailors, not monsters

Ainslie identifies the New Zealand and Japan teams as his team’s biggest threat to their qualifying to face the holders for the cup in Bermuda. Whitmarsh lays down the task facing them: “Winning it is difficult.

How can they possibly grow up in that circumstance and have the balance and humility that you’d like them to have? “We’ve made monsters in F1. Sailors don’t get that attention, but that also has to be an inherent part of the personality. Ben is very generous like that, very humble.”  Ainslie also has complete conviction. “Our goal is absolutely to win,” he says. “It’s been great to set up a completely new team and take on the likes of Oracle and New Zealand. These teams that have been around for decades. And to actually be beating them, to stay on top of them in the World Series, is a huge achievement.” If the Land Rover BAR team are successful, Whitmarsh says it could be a breakthrough moment for sailing in the UK. “This is a fast, dynamic, televisual sport. It has never been that before. You’ve got all this great history, but let’s be honest: it @sportmaguk

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Sir Ben Ainslie Winning it first time is extraordinarily difficult. If we can do that first time out, we will make a piece of history.” As well as being a winner, Whitmarsh describes Ainslie as “unusually smart and humble. He has the confidence of being a winner, but he has that rare humility and intelligence mixed with it… “I think humility comes easier because sailing, even at the highest level, does not attract the scrutiny or acclaim that other sports do. Having been involved in the creation of some young world champions in F1, in fairness to them, it’s pretty difficult to remain normal and humble because they get elevated to such an extent. By the time they’re in their early 20s, they’re millionaires living in Monaco, with the whole world bowing down to them.

was never fast enough, short enough, close enough to shore, dynamic enough and it didn’t have the on-screen graphics that you and I can understand. Because this is an inherently bewildering sport in which two boats round a marker and go off in opposite directions, and they’re racing each other. You think: ‘Hold on, what’s going on here?’ But now it’s televisual, I think it’ll be huge. “If we win this, I think it’s bigger than the Bradley Wiggins [Tour de Francewinning] moment. It’s the oldest sporting trophy in the world – 166 years, it started in the Solent, we challenged the world. And we’ve never won the bloody thing.”


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“Our goal is absolutely to win. It’s been great to take on the likes of Oracle and New Zealand – teams that have been around for decades”

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