HAMPSHIRE sailing hero Sir Ben Ainslie is set for a rematch of the America’s Cup final after New Zealand legend Dean Barker announced a last minute entry to this year’s Extreme Sailing Series.
Ainslie was credited with masterminding Team USA’s astonishing victory against Barker’s Team New Zealand in a thrilling America’s Cup final in September.
And now the two are set to clash again on the Extreme Sailing Series, racing 40ft catamarans against some of the world’s top sailors.
Both Ainslie and Barker will use the eight-date global tour as training for the 35th America’s Cup, the details of which are yet to be announced.
Team USA, as winners of the Cup, get to make the rules for the next event – and Ainslie and Barker will both be looking to challenge for yachting’s most prestigious prize.
Ainslie will skipper his Ben Ainslie Racing team at all eight events while Barker will lead his team at five, handing over to gold medal-winning dinghy racer Peter Burling for the others.
“We can’t wait around until Oracle releases the Protocol for the 35th America’s Cup,” Barker said. “We need to keep developing and take every available opportunity to compete in cats.
“Extreme 40 racing is unlike any other; the teams are very competitive, races are short, the action non-stop and split-second decisions are needed.
“I will skipper five of the regattas. We will rotate sailing squad members through the other crew positions.
“Between the two of us we will be able to field competitive crews through the year.”
Ainslie, from Lymington, added: “Anyone who has seen the series - or taken part in it – will tell you that the style of the courses, the speed of the boats and the number of boats on any side of the course at one time, means there is a lot of action and a lot of potential for crashes and incidents. “It makes for exciting racing and you really have to be on your toes.
“There are some strong teams that have been going at it for some time.
“You look at the talent out there and the history they have in this series and it feels like we’re the new kids on the block.”
Fellow Hampshire sailor Leigh McMillan, winner of the past two tours with his The Wave, Muscat crew will also be on the tour, alongside Hamble’s Rob Greenhalgh who will skipper Oman Air.
The tour kicks off in Singapore on February 20.