Ainslie in tactician's role for practice session
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
Ben Ainslie was tactician on Oracle today when the America's Cup defenders trained on the San Francisco Bay, suggesting key changes for their clash with New Zealand tomorrow.
Ainslie was at the rear of the big black boat - ironically wearing the life vest of John Kostecki, the tactician under so much pressure after yesterday's botched fifth race.
Ainslie, a knight and English sailing legend who is a four-times Olympics gold medallist, the first person to win sailing medals at five different Olympics, and is multiple world champion, has been backup helmsman on Oracle's second boat in the leadup to the regatta.
Photos emerged of Ainslie on board today as the under-pressure defenders returned to training after a night of soul-searching.
The move sparked speculation: Was it a smokescreen or was it for real? Was he being rotated with Kostecki, or was he there permanently?
It would be a huge call by Oracle to change the afterguard at this stage of the regatta.
But at 4-1 down in the series and needing 10 wins to Team New Zealand's five to seal the cup, these are desperate times, which could mean desperate measures.
Kostecki is the only sailor from San Francisco on the Oracle team and is renowned for his local knowledge.
But he has been off his game in the defender series and Team New Zealand's tactician Ray Davies has been beating him with many of the crucial calls up and down the track.
Yesterday Kostecki made the botched call to make a foiling tack while rounding the bottom mark for the first time that turned into a disaster as Oracle gave up the race lead.
Meanwhile, the Kiwis were content to remain on shore, working on their tactical analysis and boat maintenance.
There are two races scheduled for tomorrow and Oracle can't escape either.
They have played their postponement card, sensationally using it yesterday as they admitted they were well off the pace against a New Zealand boat that simply overtook them and sailed away on the upwind third leg.
The team crew lists are not expected to be confirmed until tomorrow.
Ainslie has told British media he was ready to sail tomorrow if required.
"I'll do whatever the team wants me to do," he told Sky Sports, adding he felt Oracle could still fight back.
"If they want me to sail on the boat, of course I'd love to do that . . . I'll step up to it.
"I think the Kiwis have had a faultless campaign. But we're still improving faster than any other team . . . we have to improve our performance, especially upwind. So we're looking at that and we'll make changes if we think we need to.
"I think the cup is still winnable.
"We're in a very difficult situation . . . but we've proven we can win races and if we can change the momentum of this series then anything is possible."
- Fairfax Media