AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — After his British team struggled with technical problems in a warmup competition for the America’s Cup, four-time Olympic sailing champion Ben Ainslee blamed a system supplied by defending champion Team New Zealand for the mishaps.
INEOS Team UK suffered breakdowns in both of its races Thursday on the first day of the America’s Cup World Series and was forced to withdraw from the second race when a battery failure left the yacht Britannia dead in the water.
The British team was due to race New Zealand in two races on Friday but has not yet confirmed whether it will be able to take part.
Ainslee said the problems stem from a component of the hydraulic foil canting system, a one-size-fits-all solution designed by Team New Zealand and supplied to all teams. The system enables teams to raise and lower the foils on which the yachts ride.
Ainslee said the three challenging teams from Britain, Italy and the United States have all had problems with the system. Team UK, especially, has struggled to come up with an operative solution.
“We’ve probably lost weeks of this campaign on the water dealing with the foil cant system,” Ainslie said. “I can’t speak for the other teams, but I imagine they’ve also lost a number of days. It’s a challenge.”
Team New Zealand has developed software to control the system but retains additional data as its intellectual property. Ainslee hoped Team UK’s problems in Thursday’s races would encourage New Zealand to collaborate to avoid further problems which could affect the Cup regatta.
The World Series is not part of the official Cup racing which begins in January with the challengers series.
“I’m not saying it’s any one team’s fault,” Ainslee said. “I just think we need to work together better than we are doing to resolve it and we need some resolution for a team who loses races through no fault of their own but through supplied software.
“We’ve been working together to try and resolve the issue. It’s trickier, because a lot of the information, the software, is Team New Zealand sourced.
“On the one hand, I can understand they don’t want to share that data and that intellectual property. But unless we understand (the software) it’s really hard for the other teams to input back and to solve it. And it’s not solved. As much as it’s our issue today it’ll be someone else’s issue tomorrow.
“Wouldn’t it be terrible if the America’s Cup was decided because of something like that? It needs resolving.”
Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling responded by saying the defenders have worked closely with all teams to solve any technical issues.
“We are trying to do everything we can to help them there and I am not quite sure what Ben was talking about with us withholding information,” Burling said. “We have been as open book as we can and if there is anything he wants all he has to do is ask our technical team. They have been helping all these teams as much as they can.”
Ainslee previously acknowledged there are other problems with the British boat, especially its poor performance in light airs. Team UK missed several practice days in the lead-up to the world series while it tackled technical issues.
“We’ve got a number of issues; the foil cant system is just one of them,” he said. “Our performance in the lighter airs is not good enough. It’s not where it needs to be and it’s certainly not as good as the Italians and the Kiwis.
“We’re working hard to resolve that and that’s the challenge of the Cup. It’s never going to be easy. It’s particularly difficult for us and the moment, but I’m confident in the team and that we’ve got the right people to sort this out.”
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