Ainslie facing shock America's Cup elimination

HAMILTON (Bermuda) • Ben Ainslie has admitted that his Land Rover BAR team are in a battle to avoid being the first team eliminated from the America's Cup in Bermuda after suffering a crushing loss to Groupama Team France on Monday, their fourth heavy defeat in as many sailing races.

In about 48 hours, the British team have gone from looking like a contender to an also-ran, but Ainslie said that they could turn things around.

BAR looked short on speed on the upwind legs, while mistakes came at inopportune moments against France, who won by 53 seconds.

"It was obviously a critical race looking at the elimination process," Ainslie said. "We did a lot of research on their starting techniques and were in a strong position. For it to fall apart from there is very disappointing.

"The whole team is fighting hard. We've had a few setbacks in the past week but the team is recovering from them. That's the nature of sport."

At the end of the first round-robin series of the qualifiers, only the two-point bonus BAR received for winning the America's Cup World Series (ACWS) is keeping the team off the bottom of the table.

Crucially, perhaps, the tie-breaker for teams on the same points is finishing position in the ACWS, so France, Artemis Racing and Softbank Team Japan - who are all on two points, one behind BAR - must all win two of their remaining five matches in the second round-robin series for BAR to be going home before the play-offs begin on Sunday.

The team's downturn in fortunes has coincided with the damage the boat suffered in a start-line collision with Softbank Team Japan on Saturday, but Ainslie insisted that the overnight repair on the boat had not had a negative effect.

Losses to Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand, possibly the strongest two boats here, on Sunday were explainable, but a loss to France was a hammer blow.

"Clearly we're not fast enough upwind in certain conditions and we've got to improve that," Ainslie said. "When you start racing these boats, you make one mistake and it can cost you everything. And once you do make a mistake, trying to recover from that in terms of the energy usage is incredibly hard."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Ainslie facing shock America's Cup elimination'. Print Edition | Subscribe