Ben Ainslie's America's Cup dream over, but he'll be back
British bid for Auld Mug undermined by a boat 'simply not fast enough', say commentators
Ben Ainslie's hopes of winning the America's Cup have been scuppered after his Land Rover BAR outfit were beaten 5-2 by Emirates Team New Zealand in the challenger play-off series in Bermuda.
Despite trailing after the first day's racing, the British team's hopes were renewed when the New Zealand boat capsized and appeared to sustain serious damage. However, the Kiwi crew were given an extra day to effect repairs, after high winds postponed sailing on Wednesday, and recovered to win two out of three of Thursday's races.
Ron Lewis of The Times says Ainslie's bid to claim the America's Cup for the first time since its inception in 1851 failed for the simple reason that he "did not have a fast enough boat".
He writes: "Ainslie had won most of his starts and the British crew's boat handling had improved by the day. But it was a lack of straight-line speed, particularly on the upwind legs, that cost them.
"They got quicker as the racing progressed but were always playing catch-up."
The New Zealand boat, on the other hand, "which was a wreck after it capsized two days ago, could be the best one in Bermuda", says Lewis. "Their decision to have cyclists powering their systems, rather than traditional hand grinders, seems to have given them a power edge, particularly towards the end of races. Throughout the semi-final and the round-robin qualifiers before it, they have not lost a race in which they held the lead."
Ainslie has vowed to compete for the Auld Mug next time and is determined to win it for Britain. And he will have learned lessons in Bermuda, says Tom Cary of the Daily Telegraph.
"There are two ways of looking at Ainslie's campaign. The first is that they under-performed," he says. Land Rover BAR were backed to the tune of around £100m and the team made it clear they were intent on winning.
"Clearly, there are valid questions to be asked of Ainslie and his team. Why were they so off the pace? What could they have done differently? Was this a colossal failure?
"The other, more generous – and surely more reasonable – way of looking at their campaign is that they were a first-time team who only launched three years ago. In one of the most ferociously competitive sports on earth, BAR were playing catch-up from the start.
"Their improvement since arriving in Bermuda has been impressive and something of which they can be rightly proud."