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Can Hampshire sailing hero finally win America's Cup for Britain?
11:02am Sunday 8th September 2013 in News
BRITISH people have conquered the vast majority of the world’s elite sporting competitions.
But there is still one left unclaimed for a staggering 162 years.
Embarrassingly, it first took place off the coast of the Isle of Wight in 1851, with Queen Victoria watching on.
The British boat, which was the outright favourite, lost dramatically to a schooner from the New York Yacht Club called America.
Since then it has been known as the America’s Cup – not named after the country, but the boat that unseated Great Britain as the ruler of the seas. And despite several attempts to win the competition, GB has never lifted the famous trophy.
This weekend the 34th edition of the world’s most ferocious sailing race gets under way in San Francisco Bay as Ainslie’s team looks to defend its crown – won without the Brit in 2010 against the Emirates New Zealand outfit which recently won the Luis Vuitton challengers cup, allowing them to go head to head for the America’s cup crown.
Although, there is no UKbased team competing, Ainslie is our only real hope of success as he competes alongside Australians, New Zealanders and Americans.
In future Ainslie is aiming to have his own home-based team, JP Morgan BAR, which is still under development but could be ready for action in the 35th edition, but for now he remains a member of the Oracle crew. The prestigious sailing event is one of the few sporting mountains left unclimbed as a nation.
After 109 years, the Tour de France is now firmly in British hands following Bradley Wiggins’ success last year and Chris Froome’s victory earlier this summer. That pair are also leading the way in improving the tainted image of cycling after the revelation of Lance Armstrong’s drug cheating in early 2012.
Andy Murray broke the 77 painful years waiting for a home-grown Wimbledon champion this summer as he took Fred Perry’s place as the most recent British lawn tennis tournament winner.
After Murray’s spectacular win over Novak Djokovic in the final, the nation is surely ready for another ageold duck to be broken.
This summer has been marked by the Scotsman’s milestone, Froome’s victory and the England cricket Ashes win.
But none of these victories would be quite as resounding as Ainslie getting his hands on the America’s cup trophy.
Since that fateful day in 1851, when Queen Victoria left the Solent with a sour taste in her mouth as the American upstarts gleefully sailed back across the Atlantic to show off what they had plundered from the most distinguished maritime nation on the planet, the Brits have never really looked even close to conquering this frontier. The USA has pioneered the innovations in the America’s Cup craft for decades, and around 14 UK teams have tried but failed to challenge for the chance to finally prise back the trophy.
This year’s race has been marred by death and cheating that included a devastating and tragic blow to British sailing.
Ian Percy and crewmate Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson planned to be a part of the Swedish Artemis team that intended to take part in the Challengers Cup, which could eventually qualify them for the actual race. In May, a month after arriving in San Francisco ahead of the event, Simpson was killed as he and his team trained on their AC72 catamaran on the water between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. He got stuck under the hull of his shattered boat and couldn’t be resuscitated by doctors. Percy was a part of the Artemis team that suffered defeat to Italian boat Luna Rossa, which eventually lost to Emirates New Zealand.
Ainslie’s team recently came under fire as several members were found guilty of illegally changing parts of the boat that competed in last year’s America’s Cup warm-up.
Three members of the team have been banned and have two points pre-deducted from their score-line ahead of the official race against Emirates New Zealand.
Despite this disadvantage, Oracle are still major favourites, but the last time a British sailor was odds-on to win, some cheeky Americans blistered past them in front of the monarchy on the Solent. To find out if Ainslie can go where no Briton has gone before, the races start today and could continue until late September as the crew battle it out to see who can get to nine points first.
While it isn’t a British wait, but an English one, the football World Cup has long since been in foreign hands, with England failing to win for 47 years after the Three Lions won in 1966, although, the new FA boss Greg Dyke has set his sights on winning the 2022 World Cup.
Meanwhile, Linford Christie’s 100m title from 1992 seemingly won’t be toppled anytime soon, with the continued domination by Usain Bolt in all of the sprinting events.
Team GB have never won 200m since the first race in Paris 1900, with only Darren Campbell even threatening to win in Sydney 2000 after winning a silver medal. Alas, the 162-year wait for the America’s Cup is still the darkest black mark on British sport, and Ainslie will be certainly looking to lift that heavy weight off the nation’s shoulders this year.
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