SAN DIEGO (AP) " Hoisting the trophy and spraying champagne will be nice, for sure, for the crew that wins the America's Cup World Series.
Even sweeter will be the two bonus points that can help jumpstart that team when the fleet reconvenes in Bermuda next summer for the elimination rounds.
The ninth and final stop of the ACWS will be sailed this weekend in Fukuoka, Japan. The winner of the overall series will earn two bonus points to carry into the qualifiers in June, while the second-place team will earn one bonus point.
"That's a significant bonus to take forward,'" said British sailing star Sir Ben Ainslie, whose Land Rover BAR team holds the overall series lead with 437 points, 14 better than two-time defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA.
Emirates Team New Zealand, the hard-luck loser to Oracle in the 2013 America's Cup, is three points back in third, with 420.
SoftBank Team Japan is fourth with 399, followed by Artemis Racing of Sweden with 391 and Groupama Team France with 360.
Ainslie, who was knighted a few months after winning his fourth straight Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London Games, said Land Rover BAR has been motivated by the bonus points and because it's a new team fighting for the oldest trophy in international sports.
"It's been a huge amount of work,'" Ainslie said. "I've never worked this hard in my life. It's been massively rewarding for all of us for what we've achieved in a short amount of time. But we're just starting. Our goal is to build a sustainable business in the UK with the core goal of winning the America's Cup. We know it will be a huge battle next summer in Bermuda. If we're not able to win the Cup next time, we're going to keep going. We set this up to keep going until we get the job done."
Ainslie would love to become the first Englishman to hoist the America's Cup in victory. After losing the trophy to the schooner America in 1851, the Brits have never been able to win it back.
"It's huge,'" Ainslie said. "For us, we have a very proud sporting heritage. That's the one sporting trophy we've never won.'"
The two bonus points will essentially represent two wins in the double round-robin qualifiers. In a break with tradition, the defender, Oracle, will sail against the challengers in that series.
If a challenger wins the qualifiers and ultimately advances to the America's Cup match, it will begin with a one-point advantage. Likewise, if Oracle, owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, wins the qualifiers, it will begin the first-to-seven match with a one-point lead.
After the qualifiers, the top four challengers will advance to the "playoffs" consisting of semifinals and finals to determine which team faces Oracle in the America's Cup match.
Ainslie said that one-point bonus for the America's Cup match would be "a nice helping hand."
"It certainly is our approach that it's definitely worth fighting for,'" he said.
Land Rover BAR has won three of the eight ACWS stops, with one second and two thirds.
Oracle has yet to win a stop on the series, although it has four second-place finishes and two thirds.
However, Oracle was last in the previous ACWS stop in Toulon, France.
Skipper Jimmy Spithill missed that regatta after having elbow surgery. He's back for this regatta.
"Obviously this would be a pretty nice one to crack that,'" Spithill said. "But the biggest thing in this series was consistency. Trust me, every single event we come to as a team, the goal is the same, to try to come away with a win. This one is no different. We want to come away with points. We're in not too bad of a position."
Ainslie sailed with Oracle in the 2013 America's Cup, helping the American-backed team rally to beat Team New Zealand in one of the biggest comebacks in sports history.
"I would say if they went through without winning an event that would be a disappointment in terms of their psyche, although it doesn't really hurt them," Ainslie said. "Knowing that team, they expect to be performing better. They've been one of the more consistent teams but they haven't been able to nail it on the date. Hopefully, from our point of view, this Japan event won't be when they start."
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This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings