Jobson Meets Ainslie - Part 1
Ben Ainslie (GBR) lifts the America's Cup
©ACEA / Abner Kingman
Having sat down with ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill, ISAF Vice-President met with Ben Ainslie (GBR) shortly afterwards.
Ainslie was drafted in to replace John Kostecki mid-way through the 34th America's Cup on-board ORACLE TEAM USA and played a key part in one of the finest sporting comebacks of all time.
ISAF-Vice President Gary Jobson sat down with Ainslie at the end of 2013 to find out a little bit more about the British sailor in Part 1 of 3...
"We all watched very carefully there and it's no secret that Oracle Team USA was a little bit behind the 8 Ball there digging deeper and deeper. And there was a change. And you were the change coming onboard. So how did it feel coming on a 3rd of the way through the regatta and oh no, feeling like you had some pressure on your shoulders? How did you feel?"
"We were obviously in a pretty difficult situation as a team. We were definitely in dire straits. I think all of you here who are sailors would know what the sport is like. There's a lot of different components to it. So, yes, we were in a difficult spot. We weren't going particularly well. Our speed wasn't that good, particularly on the upwind legs. I think the idea was to just bring in a fresh face and a different perspective.
"So my goal was to be Mr. Positive even though things were looking just about as bad as they could be, to try and get some enthusiasm going. Of course this America's Cup, I think, was always going to be a development race with the new class of boat with the AC72 multihulls and foiling and everything that goes with that. There was always a chance that we could develop faster than any other team and build some confidence from that. Ultimately that is what happened.
"It was definitely a team effort. It was about the designers, the boat builders, the sailors, everyone coming together to make some actually quite small changes. There's been a lot of talk about Herbie's? I don't even know what a Herbie is. Maybe someone else here knows."
"The Love Bug."
"Yes, exactly. So I don't think it had anything to do with us winning the America's Cup. It was about small changes. Developing that. Developing the technique on the boat with the sailors and the designers and then ultimately winning some races and getting some confidence."
"Talk about getting confidence, I was in Weymouth, England last summer when you got your fourth Gold medal. Pretty impressive. But in fairness I think you kind of dug a little hole for yourself early in the regatta in Weymouth and you had to dig yourself out of the hole. And in the end you had that unbelievable race, I was on the Nothe that day, when you came through and got the point that you needed and won it all.
"The fact that you were able to do that last year, did that give you some confidence that you could pull it off again at this level this year in the America's Cup?"
"They're different challenges but certainly I've been in a lot of difficult spots in my career as I know you have and a lot of great sailors have. Ultimately if you're going to put yourself in those positions you're going to end up in tough spots from time to time. I think in this particular instance with this America's Cup, it was really a credit to the team. There was no finger pointing. There were no heated arguments.
"Okay we were clearly at a disadvantage early on in the event. We were clearly behind speed wise. But the team just kept to the task and I guess really that's probably a credit to the management really. Guys like Russell Coutts, Grant Simmer, Larry Ellison to just keep sticking with the team, keep trying to develop, increase the performance of the boat. It's very easy when things are going wrong to start pointing the finger and even give up early on so I think it was impressive that the team stuck with it."
"It was certainly impressive that nobody gave up. It's a real lesson there. I think it is intriguing that you were a singlehanded sailor, Lasers, and then the Finn, and Tom Slingsby won a Gold medal in the Laser in Weymouth last summer. But it is fascinating to listen to the two of you talk. I think it is a really good lesson for all sailors, particularly young people, that communication makes a difference. Did you plan that out? Because in a Finn you don't get to talk too much to anybody."
"What are you trying to say? It was an amazing experiment because I wanted to sort of, depending on the boat, it was really putting three helmsmen together in the back of the boat. Jimmy and I had never really sailed together and I'd never sailed with Tom Slingsby either. So it was a bit of a gamble for sure.
"I have to give a lot of credit to John Kostecki who had done a fantastic job. John had done a fantastic job as tactician up until that point and I think the changes really, it wasn't that John had necessarily done anything wrong, it was the fact that really there just needed to be some kind of a change to try and up the atmosphere on the boat because things were not looking good. John was just amazing because they made the change. He'd already left for home and I called him up and I said look John, I'm sorry about this. It is difficult and all the rest of it. He said look, it's fine. I want the team to do well. I'll come in tomorrow morning and we'll go through all the software. You know we had all the starting software and navigational software and navigational software which I hadn't even seen up until that point because I'd been steering the other boat. So to have that kind of support, I think that is just the measure of the sort of team it was that someone like John, despite the ultimate disappointment of not being on the boat racing any more, he still wanted to help the team. A lot of credit to him."
"I would say that John Kostecki's reputation is intact. He's won an around the world race, he's got an Olympic medal and he's won the America's Cup. Which makes me think that you've won the America's Cup, you've got multiple medals but you haven't won an around the world race."
"I don't think many of us have."
"Is it on your bucket list here to go around the world?"
"Not really. No."
"So the Finn is tough and the America's Cup is tough but at the end of the day you get a shower."
"Yes. My Dad actually competed in the first ever Whitbread Race it was back then in '73 I think. So sailing has definitely been in my family. I would just like to say the reason why we are all here tonight is obviously I think probably, I think everyone in the world knows someone, a friend, family members, have been involved with cancer or suffer from cancer. It's obviously a very difficult disease to go through. My father actually suffers from Prostate cancer and so I know firsthand what a lot of people here have gone through. It's a very difficult thing to have to deal with. I just think it is an amazing thing that you are all here tonight and raising these funds and keep at it. It makes a huge difference."
"Thank you. That's very kind to say. Does the name Carl VanDuyne ring a bell?"
"So Carl Van Duyne was a senior at Princeton and won the Gold Cup. Was an Olympian in Tokyo in 1968. And sadly, Carl, at the age of 34 after getting his PhD at Stanford, Princeton undergrad, Stanford, passed away of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. And one of the interesting things about Carl is in the Olympic Games in '68 he was winning a race and he hit the windward mark. Nobody saw him hit the windward mark but his conscience was his guide and he reported it and he got disqualified and did not win a medal that year. But the rules were changed that you could re-round the mark after that time so he had a lasting impression. Carl Van Duyne was an inspiration to me. He grew up on the Jersey shore like me. I just wondered if you had known about him?"
"That's a very famous story about the situation in the Olympics and hitting the mark. That's one of the great things about sailing, there's a lot of sportsmanship involved. Some great stories over the years of some great sailors who have done some amazing things. I think that is why we all love the sport."
Part 2 of 3 will follow on Tuesday 21 January.