His first day of America’s Cup World Series racing in San Francisco was a ‘blur’ but despite his lack of experience in multihull racing Ben Ainslie won his first two races to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Pitched against Team Korea, with his old adversary Giles Scott as tactician, Ainslie and his four crew of Ben Ainslie Racing scored two straight victories in the qualifiers but from his first hand accounts, found the pace of the 13 minute races and the performance of the AC45 catamarans somewhat frenetic.
“Clearly we’re very pleased, but that was a day like no other so far. I think I’m still trying to take it all in," said Ainslie who two weeks ago won his fourth gold medal to become the best Olympic sailor in history.
“What’s becoming very clear already is that when the breeze is up, the pace is incredible.
“The whole way round the guys are working flat out just handling the boat. No sooner have we set up for one leg it’s time to turn a corner, deploy the gennaker, trim on, hit the boundary, furl, gybe, unfurl, swap the boards trim on and hike out.
“Sometimes it’s less than a minute before we are doing the operation again, especially if we’re on port coming back at our opponents downwind.
“So after our first day of official racing we’re pleased with how it went but this is a tiny step forwards in the campaign and there’s a huge amount to learn.
“After the race, during the public presentation and the media interviews I said that the day was a blur – honestly, I meant it.”
The win qualified Ainslie’s team for the match racing quarter finals where they come up against the experienced Dean Barker and crew of Emirates Team New Zealand, who were runners up in the 2011-2012 ACWS.
Ainslie is not the only British sailor taking part in ACWS. Chris Draper, the Olympic 49er silver helms one of the Luna Rossa boats Piranha with Freddy Carr and Nick Hutton on board while Paul Campbell James drives Swordfish.
Mark Bulkeley and Matt Cornwall are with Giles Scott on Team Korea, helmed by Australian gold medallist Nathan Outteridge and Iain Percy is tactician for Artemis, though not competing in San Francisco.