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Ainslie sets sights on British challenge

LONDON (Reuters) - Ben Ainslie, hailed as Britain's most celebrated sailor since Admiral Lord Nelson after helping Oracle Team USA to America's Cup victory, wants to win the 'Auld Mug' for his countrymen next time around.

"Now this America's Cup is over, things will develop pretty quickly for the next Cup and we have to wait and see where and when that will be and in what type of boat," Ainslie told Sky Sports News on Thursday.

"But absolutely, a British team is something that is very viable and if we got the right people together we could ultimately be successful," added the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time.

Ainslie, who has four Olympic gold medals and a silver and was knighted for his services to the sport, is the first British sailor to add success in the America's Cup to an Olympic title.

The 36-year-old was drafted in as Oracle's tactician when their defense looked to be floundering against Emirates Team New Zealand.

With him on board, Oracle staged one of sport's greatest comebacks to win the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco Bay 9-8 after being 8-1 down.

"For me personally, as a kid growing up, I dreamt of one day being involved with the America's Cup. I grew up down in Falmouth in Cornwall and used to watch Peter de Savary's America's Cup boats training," Ainslie said.

"So to win it is unbelievable and perhaps one day we can see a British team winning it. We've got a very proud maritime heritage in the UK and it's where it all started, the America's Cup, back in 1851.

"So hopefully, one day we'll see it back in British waters."

Ainslie set up Ben Ainslie Racing before the London Olympics to compete in the America's Cup World Series, a standalone championship designed to fill the gap between Cups, but said then that he would be aiming to be a challenger for the 35th America's Cup.

English entrepreneur De Savary entered a challenge for the Cup in 1983 but lost out to Alan Bond's Australia II, which went on to end the New York Yacht Club's 132 year defense of the trophy.

"In terms of the sailors and the designers, we have the talent in the UK, that's for sure," said Ainslie. "But it takes a lot to bring us together in terms of the commercial support, financial support, to run one of these teams."

Britain's double Olympic gold medalist Iain Percy could be a rival to any Ainslie-led challenge as the likely skipper of Swedish-backed Artemis.

Ainslie's role in the duel between the Americans and New Zealanders was celebrated by British media on Thursday as a national success story, even if Jimmy Spithill was the triumphant skipper.

"Ainslie's golden touch powers Oracle to glory," declared the Daily Telegraph, which also made the comparison to Nelson, in a headline.

"The unlikeliest victory - Ben Ainslie leads Team Oracle to glory in America's Cup," trumpeted the Guardian.

"Ainslie is the king of America's Cup," said the Daily Express.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O'Brien)

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