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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Ainslie denies Cup role misery
Ben Ainslie
Ben Ainslie has hit back at suggestions he is unhappy in his new role as back-up skipper for New Zealand's America's Cup team for 2007.

The British sailing star joined the Kiwis after winning his second Olympic gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

But he has since spent his time helming the warm-up boat, with New Zealander Dean Barker in charge on the race boat.

Ainslie wrote in The Times: "I'm very happy with the way things are going. There is no bitterness."

He added: "Some of the coverage has been pretty negative, implying that I am unhappy at ETNZ [Emirates Team New Zealand], and some has even hinted that my career as a sailor may have seen its best days.

"When I joined, Dean was the skipper and helmsman and that is still the case.

The focus for the next couple of years is most definitely the America's Cup
Ben Ainslie

"The hard part for me personally was, 'Should I focus on the role of strategist on the A boat, or take the chance to continue helming the second boat and learn the role which I have always dreamed of doing?'

"It was actually a very easy decision. This is still a fantastic opportunity for me and if I am able to get to Dean's level, there will be plenty of options in the future."

Ainslie, who won gold in the Laser single-handed dinghy in Sydney and gold in the larger one-man Finn dinghy in Athens, has had to adapt to the match-racing format of America's Cup sailing.

Teams of up to 16 sailors compete on large yachts one-on-one, instead of the fleet racing Ainslie excelled at in his Olympic campaigns.

He said: "The difference between match racing and fleet racing is huge and I am busy trying to bridge the gap between the disciplines.

"But I'm on a steep learning curve and new tactical situations constantly pop up."

Ainslie had an aborted spell with the American OneWorld America's Cup team before switching to his own Olympic campaign ahead of Athens.

And he has made no secret of his desire to return to Olympic sailing for Beijing in 2008.

He will compete in the Finn European Championships this summer while his ETNZ colleagues contest various America's Cup warm-up regattas.

But he insisted: "The focus for the next couple of years is most definitely ETNZ, the America's Cup and the match-racing circuit."

The 2007 America's Cup takes place in Valencia, Spain.

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