Budleigh sailor Ben Cornish swaps Olympic dream for a place in the coveted Americas Cup

PUBLISHED: 11:14 20 September 2020

The INEOS boat being put through its paces ahead of the 2021 Americas Cup being held in New Zealand. Picture: BEN CORNISH

The INEOS boat being put through its paces ahead of the 2021 Americas Cup being held in New Zealand. Picture: BEN CORNISH

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Budleigh Salterton-based sailor Ben Cornish has, for the time being, put plans to build-up for the next Olympics to join a team targeting glory in one of the most iconic racing events in the world of sailing - the Americas Cup.

The INEOS boat that will be taking part in the 2021 Americas Cup being held in New Zealand. Picture: BEN CORNISHThe INEOS boat that will be taking part in the 2021 Americas Cup being held in New Zealand. Picture: BEN CORNISH

It is classed the oldest trophy in International sport and a British boat has never won the trophy.

Ben joined the team led by Sir Ben Ainslie CBE at the beginning of 2018 and in April of that year it was announced that the Americas Cup team would be renamed INEOS TEAM UK .

Once again based out of Portsmouth the team set about building two new 75-foot foiling monohull yachts to compete for the 36th Americas Cup set to take place in Auckland, New Zealand in 2021.

Ben explains all about the Americas Cup saying: “The event is very much the Formula One of sailing and we are racing in state of the art 75ft foiling yachts.

Ben Cornish, the Budleigh Salterton sailor is set to be part of the INEOS crew that will challenge for honours in the 2021 Americas Cup being held in New Zealand. Picture: BEN CORNISHBen Cornish, the Budleigh Salterton sailor is set to be part of the INEOS crew that will challenge for honours in the 2021 Americas Cup being held in New Zealand. Picture: BEN CORNISH

“The boat is a far cry from a traditional sailing boat, these things fly above the water on hydrofoils and are capable of reaching speeds exceeding 60mph.

“The technology and development involved in the four-year build up is mind blowing and having been immersed into this world for a couple of years, I am truly amazed at what the team has designed and built for our final race boat.

“The boat is in its final stages of completion ahead of being transported by aircraft to Auckland soon.”

With regard to putting Olympic plans on ‘hold’, Ben says: “I had been targeting Olympic Games glory in the small single-handed class (Finn Class) which Ainslie dominated throughout his career.

The INEOS boat being put through its paces ahead of the 2021 Americas Cup being held in New Zealand. Picture: BEN CORNISHThe INEOS boat being put through its paces ahead of the 2021 Americas Cup being held in New Zealand. Picture: BEN CORNISH

“I worked my way to number one ranked in the World at the end of 2017.

“Only one person per country can be selected for the Olympics and the reigning Olympic Champion - Giles Scott wasn’t going to give up his fight for selection.”

He continued: “I knew it was unrealistic to believe I would snatch that place for Tokyo , therefore when the opportunity to become a part of this Americas Cup Team came about; it was simply an opportunity too good to turn down.

“I worked with Giles very closely in his build-up to Olympic success in Rio and he certainly helped my transition out of the Olympic program into the Americas Cup - and join the Team which he is also a core member of.”

The INEOS boat being put through its paces ahead of the 2021 Americas Cup being held in New Zealand. Picture: BEN CORNISHThe INEOS boat being put through its paces ahead of the 2021 Americas Cup being held in New Zealand. Picture: BEN CORNISH

We asked Ben what his specific role is within the team.

He replies saying: “The physical side of my role onboard is extremely tough. We train as a squad five days a week at the team base in Portsmouth .

“My personal role onboard requires a high level of fitness and therefor days spent preparing physically are as much a part of the job as being on the water training as a crew.

“I still come home to Budleigh most weekends to try and recover from what is normally a pretty tough week of training.”

With regard to the more specific nature of the Americas Cup, Ben says: “The Americas Cup is a very different side of the sport to what I have grown up knowing as normal.

“I spend a lot of my time on the high sophisticated simulator which we use to test technical developments on the yacht and refine techniques.

“This is operated by specialists within the Team and also backed up by a partnership with Mercedes F1, the level of detail and preparation required is truly unbelievable.”

So what next for the Budleigh sailor?

He says: “We depart for Auckland in a couple of weeks where we will move into practise ahead of the upcoming first event which happens just before Christmas.

“This will be the first time where all 4 competing teams will get to compete against one another [the teams involved are; INEOS Team UK , Italy , USA and the current Americas Cup holders, New Zealand ].”

Ben continues: “We will relocate full time to New Zealand through till the end of the Cup which runs throughout March 2021.

“It is fantastic working under Bens guidance as skipper of the Team. It becomes obvious to see why he has had so much success within the sport when you are afloat with him, the drive for perfection and constant improvement is what he drives into all of us onboard.

“Having never won the Cup which was first raced in 1851, we certainly have the opportunity ahead of us to make history and that is extremely exciting!”

Finally, we asked Ben if the Olympic ‘dream’ was now over? He replied saying:

“With the Finn Class removed from future Olympics (after Tokyo ) it is hard to see myself returning to that campaign any time in the near future due to the size and weight requirements of different classes.

“For now, it is certainly full focus on trying to get the Americas Cup back to the UK !”


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