Legendary olympic set to star at the Marina Bay next month

He once described the role of boat tactician as “bench pressing in a gym while someone throws buckets of water at you and you’re trying to play chess.”

The wannabe chess player is none other than Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor, who masterminded Oracle Team USA’s stunning comeback victory over Emirates Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup last year.

And sailing’s grandmaster will be in action in Singapore next month, when the 36-year-old leads the JP Morgan BAR Racing team in the first leg of the Extreme Sailing Series, which will be held at The Promontory@Marina Bay from Feb 20 to 23.

The Briton, who sailed three races in the series for Oman Air in 2011, said in a statement yesterday: “I remember that it is crazy racing. The style of the courses, the speed of the boats and the number of boats on any side of the course at one time, mean that there is a lot of action and a lot of potential for crashes and incidents.

“So it makes for exciting racing and you really have to be on your toes.”

The Briton won sailing medals at five consecutive Olympics from 1996 to 2012, including gold at the last four.

Benedict Tan, who won sailing gold for Singapore at the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, believes fans here are in for a treat.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Tan, the Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) president, said: “I used to train with him (Ainslie) and compete in the European circuit together in the Laser class and what struck me was his work ethic.

“I would usually put in extra hours after training on my own and be one of the last out of the water, but I’ve seen him come back to shore later than I.

“While the British media credits him for saving Team USA in last year’s America’s Cup, I believe credit also has to be given to the shore crew — who improved the boats — and the skipper James Spithill for being astute enough to make changes.

UP CLOSE

“That said, Singapore fans can see first-hand and up close just how good Ben is as a tactician during the Extreme Sailing Series,” Tan added.

Singapore will kick off the eighth edition of the eight-race series next month with nine teams doing battle on the 40-feet multi-hulls amid tight spaces close to the shore.

This year’s series will travel to two new venues — Saint Petersburg in Russia and Sydney, Australia, the latter of which will host the final race from Dec 11 to 14.

Other star names who will feature here are Volvo Ocean Race winner Franck Cammas, who will helm the Groupama boat, while reigning champion Leigh McMillan will be back at the helm of The Wave, Muscat.

Two local sailors — Scott Glen Sydney and Justin Wong — will reprise their roles with Team Aberdeen Singapore, skippered by Nick Moloney.

Sydney, 22, said: “Building on from last year’s event and the incredible experience that followed, I can’t wait to be part of a great team skippered by Nick.

“This event is an amazing opportunity for Singapore to showcase itself on the world stage and the inclusion of sailing greats such as Sir Ben Ainslie and Roman Hagara is sure to add even more quality and spectacle to the racing that will take place in Marina Bay.


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