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Olympic sailor Ben Ainslie

With three Olympic gold medals and nine World Champion titles to his name, Ben Ainslie is one of Britain’s best ever sailors. 

As he prepares to go for gold again in the 2012 Olympics, Be Happy asks him about his sport and why he loves it.

What was your motivation in learning to sail?
My motivation came from my parents and in particular my Dad – he is a huge inspiration for me. He raced the first Whitbread Round the World race back in 1973 and his stories from that race andhis enthusiasm for sailing really inspired me. His passion got me into sailing, and I would go down to my local sailing club in Cornwall, where they organised race nights which were competitive but also good fun. I owe a lot to the freedom I was given as a youngster to sail as much as I wanted in my free time – it allowed me to really enjoy the sport and I wouldn’t have got where I am today without that experience.

Did you have any sailing heroes or role models?
My sailing hero is Russell Coutts who won the Finn Class at the 1984 Olympics and then won the Americas Cup three times. Outside of sailing, Sir Steve Redgrave is a real inspiration. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know him well and he really put his body on the line to achieve his successes.

Do you remember your first experience of sailing?
My first memory is being given an old Optimist dinghy by my parents when I was eight years old. We lived in Cornwall and on the way to the pub on the river one Sunday they popped me into the water about half a mile away and said they would meet me in the pub for lunch. You probably couldn’t do that nowadays but it was such an adventure and that feeling hasn’t ever left me. I recently took three months away from the Finn due to a back injury. When I went out on the water after all that time away, it gave me a great sense of freedom.

What skills do you need to race Finns?
The Finn Class is very a technical class – it’s a huge part of it and something which I work very hard on with my coach and with designers both in terms of the mast and the sail on the boat and also the hull of the boat itself. The other parts are fitness and the actual techniques of sailing on the water and racing well. Fitness in the Finn Class accounts, at times, for up to 80 per cent of the overall result on the water. We have fitness trainers, nutritionists, physiologists – it’s a big programme that we have within the Olympic Squad, and I personally work with a trainer who’s with me most of the time both acting as a physio and masseur. My natural weight is around 85kg and I have to put an extra 10kg on during the Olympic period to be competitive. Unfortunately this isn’t just eating!

How does it differ from racing yachts?
With yachts it's very different – it’s more of a team game. You rely on the crew instead. There are ten classes in the Olympic sailing competition. of just yourself, so it’s all about trusting the team and putting the time and effort in to get it right.

Do you still sail for pleasure?
I still get a lot of enjoyment from sailing competitively, even though there’s huge pressure a lot of the time. That’s my career and that drives me. I don’t really take part in much social sailing, but I did recently go on a cruise in the Caribbean and that was hugely enjoyable – a great way to switch off.

Where would you go for a perfect day’s sailing?
I would say Sydney Harbour – I have great memories as it was where I won my first Gold Medal and I really like the whole city.

• J.P. Morgan Asset Management is the title sponsor of Ben Ainslie’s Olympic campaign. For campaign updates go to www.facebook.com/benainslie1977 or follow Ben on Twitter @ainslieben

 

 

 

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