Australia the team to beat in Sail GP: Ainslie

Back in the city of his first Olympic triumph, sailing superstar Sir Ben Ainslie says defending champions Australia will be tough to beat in the SailGP series starting in Sydney later this week.

The 43-year-old Briton, who is the most successful Olympic sailor in history with four gold medals and a silver, said Sydney is probably his favourite city in the world.

He will lead a strong British team comprised chiefly of sailors who are working together for an assault on the next America's Cup, a trophy he won in 2013 aboard Oracle Team USA.

In SailGP they will look to challenge the Australian and Japan teams skippered by fellow Olympic champions Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge respectively, who guided their boats to the final US$1 million match race of the inaugural series last September.

Australia will kick off their SailGP title defence on Sydney Harbour this week

"I'm certainly new to this circuit and this boat in the guise it is now, so we've got a little bit of catching up to do with some of the more established teams," Sir Ben told AAP.

"Certainly Tommy Slingsby and the Australian team had a fantastic season last year and no doubt they are going to be really tough to beat this season and certainly for this opening regatta here in Sydney."

He enjoyed his first experience last week of sailing in the speedy and powerful F50 catamaran all teams are using in the series.

"I'd have to say it was one of the best days sailing I've ever had in my career," he said.

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"You sort have to pinch yourself a little bit whipping around at 40-odd knots of boat speed on Sydney Harbour.

"Doing really tight manoeuvres in and out of headlands and rocky islands and all of the other ferries and craft that are on the harbour is pretty intense, but really an amazing day's sailing."

The four-times World Sailor of the Year has been back to Sydney on a number of occasions since his Olympic win in 2000.

Among those was the 2005 Sydney to Hobart, when he was aboard supermaxi Alfa Romeo,, which finished second on line honours, and he also contested the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series event in the Harbour City.

Other nations contesting the SaliGP series opening round on February 28 and 29 are the United States, Spain, Denmark and France.

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