Until now, skipper Dean BARKER (NZL) has helmed Emirates Team New Zealand's boats for all but a handful of races. Throughout this time AINSLIE has been the 'B' boat helmsman, a position he chose when joining the team in preference to being in the afterguard of the 'A' boat, despite knowing he would not be aboard the race boat come 2007. Now that appears to have changed, at least for the opening Louis Vuitton Act of the 2007 season.
How It Happened
So how did the decision come about?
'Firstly this was not a decision that was made overnight, we've been working on this idea for some time,' explained BARKER. 'It was my decision. I went to Grant DALTON and explained to him that I thought it would be a good idea to have Ben steer the boat in Act 13 for a number of reasons. It would help me stay focussed on the match racing in the Louis Vuitton, keep me fresh as well as making sure that Ben was up to speed. We believe that it's important to have other people who can step in if people get sick.'
So was BARKER sick?
'Not as far as I'm aware,' he said with a smile. 'I hope not! The fact is that Louis Vuitton Act 13 doesn't help to improve our match racing. When you look at the programme the first and second round robins are very tight and it's a long haul all the way through to the end. So the way I'm going to be most fresh is not to have to take on the pressures of going and doing another event which is pretty unrelated to what we're trying to be good at.
'Also, the way you approach areas like starting and tactics for fleet racing is different to how you might deal with things for match racing and it can take its toll. You're concentrating hard whether you're doing either.
'Ben has to be ready to go if required. He's done one or two races in the previous events, so it's good that this will present another opportunity for him to sail with the core crew which will make up the basis of the team for the Louis Vuitton.'
Over To AINSLIE
So how does AINSLIE feel about being handed the boat and the team for Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 13?
'It's a great opportunity for me to race the boat and it's a good decision for the team as well, it gives Dean a break,' he said.
'Louis Vuitton Act 13 is important, it provides the seeding for the Louis Vuitton Cup and the team wants to do well. BMW ORACLE is just a point behind in the rankings we can't afford to let them get a place between themselves and us.
'The racing has closed up within the fleet so it won't be difficult to have a few bad races so I think it's important to race normally to start with and get some good results in early on.'
Given that all his in house racing will have been for match racing, how did he feel about going out to fleet race?
'It's a bit of an unknown for me but with just four fleet racing Acts in total it's not something that the other teams are particularly familiar with either.
'We're happy with the crew work and the boat handling so it's just a matter of getting off the start line and we'll take it from there.'The America's Cup Match and Challenger/Defender Series are designated as ISAF Special Events. For more information on the America's Cup, the Louis Vuttion Acts and the teams competing, visit the official America's Cup website - www.americascup.com. For a complete list of all the news about the America's Cup 2007 CLICK HERE.