by Brian Hartz
Sir Ben Ainslie (pictured above with Princess Catherine) helped engineer Oracle Team USA’s improbable comeback victory in the 34th America’s Cup last year when he joined the crew as tactician midway through the regatta. Now he’s returned to his homeland to lead a British challenge for the Cup—and judging by his photo ops with Princess Catherine, Sir Ben’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by the crown.
Ainslie will need more than a royal blessing, though, if he’s going to dethrone Larry Ellison, Oracle, and the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which in early June finally unveiled the longawaited Protocol for the 35th America’s Cup to be held in 2017 in Bermuda or San Diego. Shockingly, San Francisco was eliminated as a contender to host the event after returning the America’s Cup to relevance last year. “Given the tight timeline and demands from prospective teams to confirm the final venue, it has been necessary to continue reducing the shortlist of candidate cities,” Oracle honcho Russell Coutts wrote in an e-mail to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who’s gone on record saying public funds would not be used to support the next edition of the Cup after the city lost nearly $12 million on it last year.
The Protocol also confirmed that the boats for the 35th America’s Cup will be 62-foot foiling catamarans sailed by eight-person crews. Teams have until August 8th to enter the competition. Thus far, only Oracle, Challenger of Record Team Australia, Italy’s Luna Rossa, and Ben Ainslie Racing are confirmed, with former champion Emirates Team New Zealand conspicuously noncommittal amid sniping and accusations exchanged between Kiwi boss Grant Dalton and Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill.