Wednesday, 4 August 2010

1851 Cup: BMW ORACLE Racing Squares off Against TEAMORIGIN in 1851 Cup

Ben Ainslie (left) and Jimmy Spithill (right) shake hands in front of the Royal Thames Challenge Cup, donated by Garrard for the 1851 Cup event. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW ORACLE Racing.

by Tim Jeffery

Two of sailing's youngest, most talented skippers - Jimmy Spithill and Ben Ainslie - square off this week in The 1851 Cup, a one-off match racing regatta between America's Cup winner BMW ORACLE Racing and TEAMORIGIN of the UK.

While the two teams race each other on the Solent, the public will have an opportunity to view the America's Cup. The trophy will be on display daily beginning at 10:00am until early evening.

Australian Jimmy Spithill, aged 30 last February, became the youngest skipper to win the "auld Mug" when he led BMW ORACLE Racing to victory in the 33rd America's Cup Match.

Now 31, Spithill also has won the Melges 24 World Championship and Match Racing World Championship, both in 2005. In honour of the success, he was selected the Australian Yachtsman of the Year (2005-06).

TeamOrigin's Ben Ainslie, 33, is a triple Olympic gold medallist and has been named ISAF World Sailor of the Year an equal number of times.

Both helmsmen are highly skilled and diverse. Spithill won the America's Cup aboard the 90-foot trimaran USA, which featured a towering wing mast 223 feet (68m) tall, and his world championships have come in fleet and match racing disciplines.

The two helmsmen were once teammates in the OneWorld America's Cup Challenge from 2003, but haven't raced each other much over the past few years.

Although the 1851 Cup is more of an international friendly than test match, it features two teams that could cross each other's paths frequently over the coming years.

"We're pretty similar," said Spithill. "He wants to win as much as I do, which is saying something. We're both very intense about our work. I certainly have hige respect for him."

BMW ORACLE Racing has lent one of its two V5 America's Cup Class slopps, USA 87, to TEAMORIGIN for the competition.

Joining Spithill aboard USA 98 are teammates Rodney Daniel (runners), Dirk de Ridder (mainsheet), Shannon Falcone (mast), Ross Halcrow (upwind trimmer), Murray Jones (traveller), John Kostecki (tactician), Jono MacBeth (grinder), Brian MacInnes (grinder), Matt Mason (pit), Ian Moore (navigator), Joe Newton (downwind trimmer), Gillo Nobili (grinder), Joe Spooner (grinder), Simeon Tienpont (grinder), Piet van Nieuwenhuyzen (bow) and Brad Webb (mid-bow).

Racing begins Tuesday afternoon with three races planned on the Solent. The first warning signal isn't expected before 3.30pm BST. The highlight of the regatta is Thursday's race around the Isle of Wight, retracing the famous 53-nautical-mile course of 1851 that created the legend that is the America's Cup.