The cup action has moved to Portsmouth, England and is exciting as usual. Local team Land Rover BAR, led by Sir Ben Ainslie, was in the lead after Saturday’s round of racing. Ainslie is without a doubt one of the best sailboat racers in recent history, with Olympic medals and world championships under his belt in such tough classes as the Laser and Finn. Add foiling catamarans to the list, and his path to glory starts to resemble that of ‘The Great Dane’ – Paul Elvstrom.
Elvstrom is arguably the most successful sailor in racing history.
- Sailed in 8 Olympiads
- Won Gold Medals in 4 consecutive Olympiads, a feat duplicated by only 3 other athletes, including Ben Ainslie and Carl Lewis;
- Medaled (1st, 2nd or 3rd) in 11 World Championships;
- Did all this in 9 different classes of boat, running the full gamut: singlehanded dinghies, double handed dinghies, 2-man keelboats, 3-man keelboats, and catamarans. Only thing he didn’t do was sailboards which became popular too late in his career.
Here is a list of racing classes he did all this in:
- Firefly (singlehanded dinghy)
- Finn (singlehanded dinshy)
- Snipe (doublehanded dinghy)
- 505 (doublehanded dinghy)
- Flying Dutchman (doublehanded beast of a dinghy/boardboat)
- Star (doublehanded keelboat)
- 5.5 Metre (3-man keelboat)
- Soling* (3-man keelboat)
- Tornado (doublehanded catamaran)
*The Soling was a true pedigree racing class, but was also very commonly used in adult sailing school programs for a long time. We used them in our first school. Sweet ride, but not particularly comfortable or ergonomic for beginners.
On top of all that, he just missed an Olympic bronze medal by one place in the Tornado class catamaran in his 50’s with his teen daughter, Trina, crewing for him. He also victored in numerous Pan-European Championships, including in the Dragon class keelboat which was very competitive back in the day.
On and off the race course, Elvstrom was developmental in many ways., ranging from sail and spar design and manufacturing to improvements in components (such as self bailing mechanisms), training techniques (his ground breaking hiking bench), and race organization (such as using gates, or two marks to pass between, for large fleets). He wrote a few books too including Expert Dingy and Keelboat Racing.
Anyway, the times and boats were somewhat different, but all can agree that these are two of the greatest names in the sport of sailboat racing. Sir Ben Ainslie has the distinction of competing in the America’s Cup, the premier small fleet/match-racing event in the sport, and is doing a very good job.
CUPDATE: Ainslie and Team Land Rover (pictured below) won the Portsmouth regatta and have the America’s Cup trial series lead. That makes them currently the boat to beat and if they maintain their lead, they challenge Team Oracle for the actual Cup.
To watch previous races, both real-time with commentary and a variety of viewing angles, and really kewl virtual renditions, go to the official America’s Cup site and browse around or better still, get their app. Racing resumes on Sunday (July 24). Check it out…