Content editor Madeleine Barber gets a look at what to expect for the sailing calendar’s biggest event – the America’s Cup World Series 2016 – and sees Sir Ben Ainslie in action. Photographs: Madeleine Barber
Red. White. Blue. These are the colours of the contrails streaking the sky behind a formation of Red Arrows. They’re also the colours of the British flag. I’m at the launch of the most important sporting event of the sailing calendar – the America’s Cup World Series – where Sir Ben Ainslie, four-time Olympic champion, and his team, Land Rover BAR, hope to sail Great Britain to victory with our red, white and blue flag on proud display.
For 165 years, America has remained champion of its eponymous cup event (bar 1983, when Australia broke its winning streak) and it is known for being the most difficult trophy in sport to win, so the pressure is on. Marketing teams and lovers of sailing alike have taken to social media with the hashtag #BringTheCupHome. With so much riding on the weekend’s races between six nations (Japan, France, New Zealand, Sweden, the United States and Great Britain), I find myself wondering if this will be a weekend that goes down in sporting history.
A Red Arrow swoops over my head with a loud rumble and brings me back to the present. The nine-strong formation is twisting, turning and rolling to ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the crowd. A vixen break formation ends the show on an incredible high.
I’m lucky enough to be a guest of the Gunwharf Quays team today, so head out on a RIB boat with them to see the teams practising from a great vantage point on the water. The sun is shining and the Solent is peppered with yachts, bobbing on gentle turquoise blue waves. In the distance, Land Rover BAR is winning a practice race so cheers fill the air from the surrounding spectators. The atmosphere is electric, the excitement is palpable, and it’s not even a real race day! I can only imagine how hard the team are working onboard.
Reluctantly whizzing away from the gathering of floating spectators, we head towards Gunwharf Quays and, having had a taste of what’s to come, I feel even more excited for the weekend’s race result. On the way back, I catch a flash of red, white and blue – Land Rover BAR’s sail, and I know that all Britons will be rooting for Sir Ben Ainslie and his team this weekend.