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Ainslie making progress on America's Cup team for Britain

Oracle Team USA tactician Ben Ainslie speaks to members of the media after winning Race 18 of the 34th America's Cup yacht sailing race agai
Oracle Team USA tactician Ben Ainslie speaks to members of the media after winning Race 18 of the 34th America's Cup yacht sailing race agai

By Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - Ben Ainslie is making good progress on putting together an 80 million pounds ($130 million) British challenge for the next America's Cup, the four-times Olympic champion said on Thursday.

The British sailor helped to inspire Oracle Team USA to one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history last year when they rallied from 8-1 down to defeat Emirates Team New Zealand 9-8 and land the trophy.

Ainslie has now set his sights on leading his own country to a first win since the race began in 1851 and is expecting details imminently on the rules and protocols for the next edition likely to be held in 2017.

"We don't have those yet, we're expecting them in the next couple of days," he told the SportsPro Live business conference in London, adding he should learn the class of boat and the race dates but not the venue.

A British challenge will need deep pockets to compete with the American team that enjoys the backing of Oracle's founder, software billionaire Larry Ellison.

However, Ainslie said he believed the next set of rules would not seek to blow potential rivals out of the water.

"Someone like Larry Ellison is certainly in the top five of the richest people in the world but his vision for sailing is to reduce the costs," he explained.

"We expect those costs to come down and it to be much more commercially viable," said Ainslie, predicting smaller boats and design teams for the next America's Cup.

The Briton added that there was already healthy interest from investors who would contribute around 35 percent of his budget, with sponsors funding the rest.

Bank JP Morgan is a long-term sponsor of Ainslie's sailing career and his high public profile after winning gold at the 2012 London Olympics and in the America's Cup should help unlock funding.

"For the first time, coming back to the UK, non-sailors said I really enjoyed watching that," he said, recalling the reaction when he returned from the America's Cup last year.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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