Cowes, Isle Of Wight, UK - WMRT Tour Card holder Ben Ainslie (GBR)will lead TEAMORIGIN against America's Cup holders BMW Oracle Racing over four days of competition in the Solent this week. Racing will be held close to West Cowes in order to provide a showcase to spectators and sailing fans.
The event, named the 1851 Cup Regatta, will emulate the duel between the UK and USA as was the case when the first race for the 100 Guineas Cup (as the America’s Cup was called at the time) was held in and around the Solent, watched by a young Queen Victoria in 1851. On that occasion the sole US entry, America, was up against the fastest boats the UK could muster, yet the legendary all-black yacht still walked away with the trophy, which has never returned to British hands in the intervening 159 years.
There will be a mix of races held with the modern short course match racing style used on 3rd, 4th and 7th August and on Thursday the 6th a 'Round the Island Race' will be held, which will circumnavigate the Isle Of Wight, the same course used in 1851. Garrard, the oldest jewellery house in the world, has created and unveiled a stunning new trophy ‘The Royal Thames Cup’, a sterling silver claret jug made by Garrard in 1972, which will be awarded to the race winner by the Royal Thames Yacht Club.
The two boats used in the match race will be BMW Oracle Racing's 2007 Version 5 ACC designs, USA-87 (sailed by TEAM ORIGIN) and USA-98 (sailed by BMW ORACLE Racing). Both boats went out training for the first time yesterday afternoon with a course set up in the mid-western Solent, allowing the crews to re-acquaint themselves with the boats, short courses and to practice starts.
“It is pretty cool to come back to where it all kicked off,” stated BMW ORACLE Racing skipper and helmsman James Spithill (AUS). “It is surprising that it has taken this amount of time to start something like this. I think it is a fantastic idea.”
Meanwhile Ainslie, who is currently lying 5th on the World Match Racing Tour, is enjoying the return of America’s Cup-style racing to the UK.
” There is no better opportunity to invigorate Cup fever in the British public than at Cowes Week. It looks like it is as good as ever with so many boats,” he says of the world’s most famous sailing ‘week’, which dates back to 1826. “There are so many people around that for us to be racing the Cup boats on home waters is pretty special. Hopefully once Cowes Week competitors have finished their racing they can come and watch us.”
To arrive at this event the two skippers have taken completely different sailing paths since the end of the Americas Cup in 2007, Spithill's last encounter on the Tour saw him win the Latium Match Cup without losing a sinlge race, a feat not achieved by any skipper at a WMRT event since. He then moved to BMW Oracle Racing and has spent the last few years racing big boats and giant multihulls. Ainslie on the other hand has picked up another Olympic Gold Medal in the single handed Finn dinghy, raced Maxi's and TP52's and has been racking up podium places on the World Match Racing Tour. Ainslie's last 6 finishes at Tour events have been 1, 2, 2, 1, 3, 1, a pretty impressive feat. The last time the two skippers met was at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Regatta in La Maddalena where it was Ainslie and his British team that came out on top. It will be interesting to see how their two sailing paths will influence the way they approach the match racing at the 1851 Cup.
Racing will be streamed Live by WMRT Partner Sail.tv with commentary in English and will feature Virtual Eye 3-D graphics as used during the Monsoon Cup and Korea Match Cup and will employ new television techniques with two on board cameramen, one aft, the other positioned precariously forwards on each boat. Data is also being captured from the winches on board each boat to show just how physical this style of sailing is.