Ben Ainslie

Sir Ben Ainslie is the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. His career in sailing began aged eight in an old wooden beginner’s dinghy, an Optimist, after his family moved to Restronguet Creek, near Falmouth. Eight years later, he became Laser Radial World Champion.

Aged just 19, Ben won his first Olympic silver medal in the Laser Class at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. Brazilian Robert Scheidt got the gold. In his autobiography, ‘Close to the Wind’ Ben admits to a fierce ongoing rivalry with Scheidt, describing him as his nemesis. Four years later, with the Laser, he achieved every athlete’s dream of Olympic gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Subsequently, Ben switched to the Finn Class, a change he felt was needed to be successful in his sport. He increased his bodyweight by fifteen kilos to achieve the optimum weight for the class and, following a gruelling training programme, he struck gold again at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

2012 London Olympics, Weymouth. Courtesy of Ben Ainslie Racing

Ben secured qualification to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games by winning an unprecedented fifth world title, at the 2007 Finn Gold Cup in Melbourne, Australia. Despite falling ill days before, he won his third consecutive Olympic gold medal.

At London 2012, Olympic history was made when he secured his fourth gold in front of a home crowd at Weymouth and Portland. He described himself as being ‘ruthless on the water’. Following this, he was nominated as Team GB’s flag bearer for the Olympic Closing Ceremony, ‘a really proud moment’  for him.

Days later, with his team Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR), he headed to the waters of San Francisco to compete in the America’s Cup 2012/13 World Series supported by long term sponsor JP Morgan. The newly formed team JP Morgan BAR joined America’s Cup defenders ORACLE TEAM USA to defend the 34th America’s Cup.

In January 2013 Ben was knighted and in September of the same year he fulfilled a childhood dream by helping win the America’s Cup against the challenger, New Zealand. Afterwards he said, “I learnt so much from this experience … as a tactician, a role I had never performed before but which has given me invaluable insight; and as a regular team member, watching what goes on behind the scenes of an enormous America’s Cup operation.”

His long-term aim is to win the America’s Cup and bring it back to Britain where it all began over 160 years ago. “This is the last great historic sporting prize never won by Great Britain…” It is an aim he has yet to achieve, though will attempt again in 2021.

Ben lived for a time in Lymington and is an honorary life member of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club. After the Royal Mail painted a letter-box gold in Cornwall, where Ben grew up, a local resident then painted the letter-box on Lymington’s High Street gold in his honour as well.

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