Ben Ainslie became the most successful Olympic sailor in history on Sunday, winning his fourth consecutive gold medal (to go along with a silver), in the Finn class. The legendary Paul Elvstrom has four gold medals.
Ainslie will join the AC World Series later this month for the first time with his own Ben Ainslie Racing Team.
On Sunday, Ainslie faced a do or die race for the gold, entering the final medal race two points behind the Danish sailor Jonas Hogh-Christensen, who he needed to beat in the final race to secure gold.
But he couldn’t focus exclusively on the Dane, as other sailors were in range if the two leaders finished near the back of the pack.
In the event, Ainslie and Hogh-Christensen did finish ninth-tenth, but the other results lined up favorably to allow Ainslie to secure the historic gold medal.
“I am speechless. I am just so glad for everyone who has supported me over the last four years. It has been an amazing Olympics…” said Ainslie.
“It’s been incredibly hard – there’s a huge amount of pressure to perform at a home Games. It’s been the hardest couple of weeks of my life, but you just have to get on with the job.
“This was one of the hardest courses I have raced on and I don’t want to do anything like that again.”
To underscore how difficult the racing has been, Ainslie need look no further than his conpatriot Iain Percy, who was gunning for a third consecutive gold medal and entered the medal race in the Star class with a narrow lead on the points table.
Percy, who sails with Artermic Racing in the 34th America’s Cup, and his crew Andrew Simpson, had topped the leaderboard in the Stars for most of the regatta. In the medal race, they kept their closest rivals, the Brazilian team, well in check.
But Sweden’s Freddie Loof sailed away from the fleet for a convincing win, meaning Percy had to finish sixth or better. On the final run, a pack of boats converged to cross the finishing line within seconds of each other. The British boat was in that group, but was judged to be eighth across the line, and Percy had to settle for silver.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “We tried our hardest and did well in the regatta. At the moment, it does hurt.
“It’s a testament to how well we sailed. We sailed 10 good races. There’s a big luck element. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves, but at the same time we were really proud.”
Artemis skipper Terry Hutchinson has said Percy isn’t expected to race with the team in San Francisco this month, but will be returning to America’s Cup duty later this year.
Meanwhile, ORACLE TEAM USA’s Tom Slingsby has guaranteed himself a medal of some description heading into Monday’s medal race in the Laser class.
And Team Korea’s Nathan Outteridge has a solid lead in the 49er class with the medal race looming mid-week.