Big Ben going postal on that RIB the other day might have been the best thing that could ever have happened to the Perth Worlds. Did you know there’s good video of the racing every day? Well, we didn’t. Not until an SA’er posted the video of the Ainslie finish – conveniently clipped about four seconds before Ben through started thugging out on the hapless RIB driver.
A quick Google search shows that hundreds of international publications ran stories on Ainsliegate, and the ultimate irony of the situation is that the poor decision making of a TV boat driver, directed by TV production company staffers, combined some serious douchebaggery on Ainslie’s part, ended up creating far more exposure for the event than even the best TV coverage could have.
Whether the whole thing was good or bad for the event aside, it’s hard to imagine that Ben would be anywhere but a jail cell had he jumped on a fishing boat and grabbed the driver the way he did on the TV boat. In any other sport, if someone physically grabbed a cameraman or ref that got too close to the action, they’d get a fine and a suspension. In this case, Ben got off lightly – with two undroppable disqualifications and the potential of more discipline from the RYA in a few weeks – but the truth is that the RYA would be well within their rights to give Ainslie the boot for a few months.
They won’t, though – and we think that will be the right decision. Why? Because Ben Ainslie is an animal. Hell, most of the Finn sailors are. They are the muscle bound rage machines of the sailing world, and there is nothing in sailing that requires more strength or aggression than winning at Olympic Finn level. This wasn’t some kind of temporary insanity for Ben Ainslie – he has THREE GOLD MEDALS precisely because he is the kind of man who is obsessively driven to win at almost all costs, and that kind of obsession simply can’t be shut off in Ben’s case. C’est la vie.
Never mind the media boat driver. Sure, organizers should know not to put volunteers in the front lines, especially when they are guaranteed to get beaten into getting too close by the hardened cameraman aboard. Never mind the media and PR people from GBR Sailing trying to bury the story. Never mind that the video shows Ainslie wasn’t even close to the first place boat, and that Ainslie was likely just taking out his anger at not winning the race on someone convenient. Never mind the weirdness of the TV producer (directing the boat) also being the distributor of the TV product from Perth as well as the same company that produces Ainslie’ promo videos, or the weirdness of ISAF discipline chief Jerome Pels being Ainslie’s cousin. Never mind that the official British response will likely suspend all of their usual properness and love of the rules to downplay Ben’s anger issues and emphasize his apology.
Ben should be on the line in Weymouth. He is the best in the world, he is fun to watch, and his thuggery will be mentioned over and over for the next half a year, providing an element of human interest in an otherwise robotic fleet of pro sailors. Hopefully, Ben blows a few more gaskets and truly becomes the John McEnroe of sailing; I don’t know about you, but if it weren’t for Johnny Mac, we probably wouldn’t even know what tennis is.
The fact that Ben’s a thug may concern JP Morgan and the rest of his personal sponsors, but the general public? No way. They LOVE thugs.