Ben Ainslie won the Tour in 2010 / myimage / AWMRT
If Britain’s Ben Ainslie stood on the cusp of legendary status before the London 2012 Olympics, he has surely cemented it after capturing an historic 4th gold medal on Sunday which secured his place as the greatest Olympic sailor that has ever lived.
Ainslie's silver medal from 1996 in the Laser class puts him ahead of Paul Elvestrom of Denmark in the all-time Olympic table, with both sailors having taken a total of four golds. In an unlikely twist, it was another Danish skipper trying to keep Elvestrom's record intact this week in Weymouth. Ainslie becomes the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time. He had to fight for it though.
His arch rival in the Finn Class was unexpected. ‘The Great Dane’ Jonas Hogh-Christensen beat Ainslie in 6 straight races leaving the Brit on the back foot, some 10 points adrift. Ainslie had to go toe-to-toe with the Dane to rein him in and if ever he needed to call on the experience he gained match racing on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour and with ETNZ during the America’s Cup in 2007, this was it.
From slowing down to give the Dane his dirty air to chasing Hogh-Christensen around the committee boat in the start sequence of the final medal race to try and force the Dane to mistime his start, fans were treated to scenes more typical of a match race contest.
“My match racing experience will have helped,” said Ainslie. “After six races, I was in trouble and had to focus on disrupting Jonas as much as my own boat speed. It wasn’t quite the same as a clean match race but the match racing skills and mentality of going one-on-one with your opponent came into play.”
For the match race purist, the women’s Olympic match racing continues out in Weymouth where the likes of Anna Tunnicliffe, Lucy Macgregor and Claire Leroy are battling it out.
For Ainslie, it’s relief and a shift in focus to setting up Ben Ainslie Racing and the America’s Cup. It’s there where he will test his mettle against the likes of Spithill, Coutts, Barker and Hutchison, all figures who have succeeded on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.