SIR Ben Ainslie likes to defy the odds, but his latest race against time could test even his skill at generating something from nothing.
Last year, Britain’s most able seaman since Admiral Nelson masterminded one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all-time, calling the tactics as Oracle Team USA sailed back from a virtual Dead Sea to win the America’s Cup in San Francisco.
But sailing with the Stars and Stripes on his sleeve took something off the moment for the four-time Olympic and eight-time world champion.
Britain has staged the Olympics, finally won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon and seized yellow at the Tour de France twice…in two years.
But the Auld Mug is arguably the last sporting summit not to have been conquered, and it’s time to end more than 160 years of maritime misery, with Sir Ben at the helm and a nation providing the wind in his sails.
However, turning a required investment of £80m into a success will not be easy.
New teams rarely succeed on their maiden voyages. Indeed, it took US software billionaire Larry Ellison two attempts and a reported $200m before his success in Valencia four years ago.
“It is about bringing together the right people who have built successful corporations, designed successful America’s Cup boats, sailed on winning boats, brought the Olympics to Britain and we have those people,” said Sir Ben, who is being backed by London 2012 deputy chairman Sir Keith Mills and Carphone Warehouse co-founder Sir Charles Dunstone in his campaign.
“Winning last year was more powerful than anything I’d previously achieved, but it would have been so much more fulfilling with a British team - and that’s the goal.
“Since childhood I’ve had this burning desire and ambition to be part of a winning British America’s Cup team. We don’t just want to take part, we’re here to win and we’ve got a budget that will make us competitive.”
Next week, Sir will seek to capture one of his sport’s most famous records as he aims to set the quickest monohull circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight at the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race.
He already holds the multihull record from last year and the event has deep-rooted historical links to his America’s Cup campaign.
The America’s Cup was first contested as a 52-mile circuit sail on the Solent in 1851 – the schooner America won, claiming trophy naming rights – and a British boat has never won it back.