'It was like skiing on ice' - Ben Ainslie defends Peter Burling in Team NZ capsize
Sir Ben Ainslie felt criticism of Peter Burling's handling of Team New Zealand's catamaran would be unfair on a treacherous day in Bermuda where he likened sailing to "skiing on ice".
Team New Zealand pitch-poled their AC50 in a spectacular capsize in the start to their fourth race with Ainslie's British team on Wednesday (NZ time).
The Brits got the point to narrow Team New Zealand's challengers semifinal lead to 3-1 and the Kiwis, relieved to report no casualties, limped back to base to assess the damage from the most spectacular crash of an incident-fileld regatta.
* Burling admits mistake that led to Team NZ capsize
* Ainslie: Bermuda conditions 'like skiing on ice'
* Recap: 35th America's Cup challenger series semifinals
* Team NZ win first race in second day of semifinals
* Target on Team NZ's back in Bermuda
* Team NZ capsize in start box ahead of semifinal
The drama came in winds approaching the upper limit of 24 knots and with white-capped seas. Ainslie said he'd never experienced anything like it in his illustrious career and he certainly wasn't going to question the ability of Burling as "pilot error" was raised as a cause.
Team New zealand were accelerating after being stalled by Ainslie in the starting box and as they lifted on to their foils, they lost control and pitched forward.
"It looked to me like a slight misjudgment on their rake and the angle but all of us sitting here aren't going to pass criticism. These boats are incredibly hard to sail and this can happen," Ainslie said at the press conference flanked by fellow skippers Dean Barker (Team Japan) and Nathan Outteridge (Artemis Racing), with Burling still out on the water helping his stricken cat being towed home.
"The incident happened just as Emirates Team New Zealand were crossing the starting line and had been dialled up.
"It was tough bearaway, a big deep bearaway which in those conditions and these boats isn't easy.
"Thank god, most importantly, everyone is fine on the boat and I'm sure they will recover from that and be out racing tomorrow or the next day."
Ainslie said the winds were gusting "26-27 knots" at times with a lot of white water.
"I'd liken it to skiing on ice," he said. "You just have to go for it and it's no holds barred. If you try to play safe, it's almost worse."
Ainslie rushed his team's chase boat to the scene of the accident to give the New Zealand support and safety crew assistance.