Olympic Stories

Ben Ainslie - Sailing

Ben Ainslie - Sailing

Sailing legend and Olympic mainstay Charles Benedict “Ben” Ainslie was born February 5, 1977 in Macclesfield, England. Like many of today’s best sailors, the sport was inborn with Ainslie; his father was a sailor, captaining a boat in the inaugural Whitbread Round The World Race circa 1973.

At only eight years of age, Ainslie was out on the water by himself, and by the age of ten, he was already competing in notable events. His first big event, an international competition, was raced when Ainslie was only 12. He took 37th place in the Optimist World Championships (Japan) in 1989. Not too shabby for a sailor who wasn’t even a teenager yet.

Sporting Career

Since Ainslie’s finish in 1989, he has continuously moved forward. Like a pugilist, Ben has continued to step into the proverbial ring to face daunting opponents throughout his long and illustrious career. In 1993, still a very young man, Ben took on all comers at the Laser Radial World Championship and earned an impressive 1st place finish. Competing against others in his own age bracket, Ainslie proved handedly that he was not only top of his class but also of his age group when he took another 1st in 1995’s IYRU Youth Sailing World Championships.

Another boxing characteristic of Ainslie, he refused to stick around and dominate the Laser class. After winning Olympic gold in the 1996 and 2000 Games in his respective class, along with two other World Championship titles (1998, 1999), Ainslie put on 40 pounds and jumped up to Finn class, where after a few runs of getting used to the ebb and flow and heavier sailing, he again started to clean up and scare off all who dared to challenge his reign as the world’s best sailor.

From 2002 to 2005, Ainslie would win a World Championship in Finn class, a feat that propelled an already great sailor into the role of immortality throughout the sailing world.   Although Ainslie wouldn’t win another World Championship until 2008, his popularity never wavered.

In the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympic Games, Ben Ainslie looks to defend his Gold medal in the Men’s Finn Class dinghy event. And while the field is wrought with talent, this former British Yachtsman of the year (’95, ’99, ’00, ’02) is certainly up for the challenge – especially after 2011 saw him leading the ISAF World Championships by a large margin, only to be disqualified for threatening a photographer after the photographer’s boat obstructed Ainslie’s path. Ben is hungry to prove that he’s still the world’s best sailor.

Career Highlights

  • 1993 Laser Radial World Championship – 1st
  • 1995 IYRU Youth Sailing World Championships – 1st
  • 1996 Olympic Games – Silver
  • 1998 Laser World Championship – 1st
  • 2002 Finn World Championship – 1st
  • 2003 ISAF Sailing World Championships – 1st
  • 2004 Finn World Championship – 1st
  • 2005 Finn World Championship – 1st
  • 2008 Finn World Championship – 1st
  • 2010 ISAF Open Match Racing World Championship – 1st
  • 2012 World Championships – 1st
  • 2012, 2011 World Cup – 1st
  • 2012 Summer Olympics – Gold

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