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Ainslie keeping firm hand on helm for next America's Cup tilt

Reuters logo Reuters 24/06/2017 By Tessa Walsh and Alexander Smith
Sailing - America's Cup Finals - Race three: Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand compete in Race three of America's Cup Finals. Best of the America's Cup

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Ben Ainslie is not about to give up steering the boat in his quest to bring the America's Cup back to Britain and is set to plan his next campaign as soon as he returns home next week.

Ainslie would prefer the next America's Cup to be sailed in the high-speed 50-foot catamarans that have thrilled sailors and spectators over the last month in Bermuda, but he told Reuters on Saturday he would be open to other types of boat.

"I still see myself as steering the boat ... This isn't all about Ben Ainslie having to steer the boat to win the America's Cup, it's about Britain winning the America's Cup," the most successful ever Olympic sailor said at his team's base.

Sailing - America's Cup Finals © REUTERS/Mike Segar Sailing - America's Cup Finals

"That's all I'm interested in and I happen to think that I'm the right person to do that job at the moment," he added.

The 40-year-old British skipper had mixed fortunes in Bermuda, but his development team won the Red Bull Youth America's Cup.

Ainslie's reputation, drive and connections in business and sailing have ensured that his Land Rover BAR team's next America's Cup campaign is already fully-funded, despite the new outfit going out of the competition at the semi-final stage.

The campaign, which Ainslie said is likely to be similar in cost to the 90 million pounds ($114 million) spent on getting to Bermuda, will go ahead regardless of the outcome of the final between holders Team Oracle USA and Emirates Team New Zealand.

Ainslie has signed up to a framework agreement with the U.S. and other teams which would mean the event is held every two years in catamarans similar to those being raced in Bermuda.

But things could change if New Zealand triumph as the winners decide the format of the next cup and the Kiwis are the only team not to have signed up to the deal.

New Zealand lead the U.S. team 4-1 in the first-to-seven final and a win for them would mean that they have the right to change the type of boat used, as well as the venue and the timing of the next event, which has raised alarm bells for some teams that face losing sponsorship if there is uncertainty.

"I don't have the fears that suddenly we'll go to New Zealand ...and it'll take the Cup back to the Dark Ages," a tanned and bearded Ainslie said.

CHALLENGER IN WAITING?

Ainslie, often viewed as a voice of reason in a sport dominated by big personalities, did not rule himself out as the "challenger of record" for the 36th America's Cup, a key part of the process for the trophy, which dates back to 1851 when it was won off the south coast of England by the schooner "America".

He does, however, feel that the competition would be better sticking with its current format, including the foiling 50-foot catamarans, which have provided exciting high-speed racing with plenty of lead changes and drama.

"I think the foiling multihulls have proven to be great for the spectators and the sailors love them and that would be a shame to move away from that." he said.

Regardless of who wins, Ainslie is calling for a quick decision on the format to keep the momentum from Bermuda and is a strong advocate of the World Series lead-up event, which has boosted support for fans and broadcasters.

Ainslie and his team are going back through the lessons learned from their first tilt at the America's Cup.

"Looking back we needed to take more time to make key decisions in our strategy. This time around I'm much more confident that having the financing in place and a core team that puts us in a much stronger position," he said.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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