Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Ben Ainslie Back in the Finn

by Ben Ainslie

It has been a very cold but very refreshing week in more ways than one as I returned to Finn sailing for the first time since Beijing 2008 at a British Finn squad training camp at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.

This was the first time I’d even stepped back into a Finn since the Olympics and it has proved to be a really worthwhile week just sailing the boat again and being around the rest of the guys in the squad.

I had two main aims going into the week having been concentrating on big boat sailing for the past 18 months. Firstly I wanted to just reacquaint myself with the Finn and get used to sailing a dinghy again and secondly I wanted to move the technical side forward as well as checking in with where the other guys were at in terms of fitness.

The guys in the Finn squad have obviously been working really hard on their racing since I last trained with them before the Olympics. They have just come off the back of a two-month break so they were also a little rusty although not as rusty as me!

It has actually felt quite natural slipping back into dinghy sailing and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was able to hold my own in races.
Because I’m lighter than my ideal Finn racing weight I thought I’d be fine in the lighter airs but was worried I’d be left for dead in the breeze but I’ve actually not been too bad and have been happy with my own pace. I know there is still a lot to improve on but it was reassuring to be sailing at a good level while knowing I can still make some big gains.

It has been really cold, and it has been a long, long time since I’ve sailed in conditions like this! When it is so cold you can’t really spend any more than three-and-a-half hours or so at a time on the water but the work we have been doing has been really focussed and there have been some good races.
Off the water, we’ve also been able to train in the great new gym the RYA has built as part of its new centre at Portland Marina and I’ve been working on the logistical and technical aspects of my campaign with my coach David Howlett.

I’ve worked with David for so long I trust him completely. I arrived at Weymouth from Malaysia where Team Origin had been competing in the Monsoon Cup - the final round of the 2009 World Match Racing Tour - via one day at the Paris Boat Show and my Finn, as I knew it would be, was fully rigged and ready to go. If I’d had to do it myself I’d have spent a couple of day’s faffing about getting my kit together.

We are testing a new boat, new masts and a fair bit of new equipment, there’s been a lot going on. I hope to get some more time in the Finn at the end of January and start of February before I head off to New Zealand with Origin for the next of the Louis Vuitton Trophy events.

I’ll be looking to get back into the Finn full-time at the end of 2010 and be racing again in 2011. However although my focus for 2010 is TP52 and match racing, and whatever may happen with the America’s Cup, I know if there is the opportunity to fit in a bit of Finn training and testing in Valencia or Palma, for example, David will be able to get the boat there, which could be invaluable.

The great support I receive from JP Morgan Asset Management makes a huge difference in enabling us to make this sort of thing happen, to make sure we are getting the right equipment and are maximising the time available outside of the America’s Cup campaign.

It has been a hectic couple of months competing with Team Origin at the Louis Vuitton Trophy event in Nice before flying to Perth for the Australia Cup match racing event and then to Malaysia for the Monsoon Cup so I am really looking forward to having a bit of time off over Christmas and New Year and getting away with my family and friends.

May I wish everyone a happy and safe Christmas and see you all in 2010.

Ben Ainslie

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