Best chance of winning Amercia's Cup lies with Ainslie
FALMOUTH-BRED sailing hero Ben Ainslie has created Britain's best chance of winning the next America's Cup than at any time in its 162-year history, according to his childhood coach and mentor.
After his victory as tactician on board Team USA's Oracle in one of sailing's greatest ever comebacks in San Francisco, Sir Ben said he planned to create a British team to challenge the title-holders.
Phil Slater, who first taught Sir Ben to race when he was 9, believes there has never been a better opportunity for a British team to bring the Cup home to the UK, where the competition began in 1851.
"This is a crucial time to get backing," he said. "His stars are rising. His national and international profile has never been higher, even more than when he won Olympic gold.
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"He has got the knowledge to do it. He has helped the American team to do it.
"He could just as well do it for us, and he certainly deserves to be given the chance.
"The Americans know if he comes to challenge them, they should be worried."
Mr Slater first taught the four-time Olympic gold medalist to race Optimist dinghies at Restronguet Sailing Club.
Sir Ben, raised in Falmouth and a member of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, had sailed on his parents' yacht and was invited to join the junior Optimist class, which was run by Mr Slater's wife, Jillian, when they moved to Restronguet Creek.
"He had a good idea how to sail, so he cottoned on really fast," said Mr Slater.
"But most of the time he was watching the big kids racing with me. He really just wanted to race."
Within five months of learning to sail an Optimist, he was racing.
"He was absolutely keen to compete from the time he first joined the group.
"He would tag along with the others and try to copy what they did.
"He rapidly began to improve and was keeping up with the best guys in the group."
At the age of 11, the former Truro School pupil was selected to compete for the British team.
Last week, he became the first British sailor onboard an America's Cup-winning boat in 110 years.
Sir Ben said he had been inspired to take part when he lived in Cornwall, adding: "I grew up down in Falmouth in Cornwall, we had an America's Cup team down there in 1987 and I remember watching them training and preparing, and thinking about maybe one day being involved."
He said he had meetings lined up about a British entry. The winning team chooses the venue of the next event so Falmouth could be in line to host.