Ben Ainslie was named the male winner of the 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award at a ceremony held at the Mansion House, Dublin, Ireland on Nov. 6. Ainslie takes home the award as a noteworthy 2012 comes to a close – a year in which he captured his fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal to earn the honor of most successful Olympic sailor of all time.
“To win the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year award is something that is a huge honor. Not really as much for me, but for everyone who has helped me. Very often people forget about the huge team that is in the background – family and friends, coaches and sponsors, all there to make it happen,” Ainslie said. “It is also a huge honor to also be in a group of such an exceptional sailors, also put forward for this award. I’ve been fortunate to win a few races in my time, but there are a lot of fantastic sailors out there.”
Ainslie was recognized with the World Sailor nod for a fourth time, also winning in 1998, 2002 and 2008. This year, his gold medal in the Finn Class was won in front of a home crowd and marked his fifth overall Olympic medal (four gold, one silver). He is one of only two men to win five medals in Olympic competition, and one of only two to win four consecutive sailing gold medals.
“To take part in a home Olympics was a completely unique experience,” he said. “I’ve never felt quite the same level of expectation, but also the support that we had at London 2012. It was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform in front of a home crowd.
“These Olympics weren’t so easy for me – sometimes it flows and sometimes you have to fight for it,” Ainslie continued. “Unfortunately, this time I was struggling quite a lot. It was a tough fight all the way to the finish. To manage to get to the line and win the gold medal in front of a home crowd – I don’t think I’ll ever experience an emotion or sensation like that again.”
After making history in the waters off Weymouth, England, Ainslie was selected as Team GB’s flag bearer for the Olympic Closing Ceremony.
Shortly after the London Games, he stepped almost immediately into his role with ORACLE TEAM USA.
“The transition to the America’s Cup from the Olympics was a little bit rough,” he said. “We went straight from the Olympic Games and 10 days later I was racing in the America’s Cup World Series in San Francisco. We struggled a little bit.
“A month later, after a couple weeks training, we were right up there at the top of the fleet. That was a fantastic learning experience for me,” Ainslie said. “The America’s Cup World Series is a great series. Certainly we’re seeing some really exciting racing, and a lot of the top Olympic sailors now have an avenue to come through to the America’s Cup.”
Ainslie now spends his days training for sailing onboard an AC72 with ORACLE TEAM USA.
“They’re a really good group of people – very, very talented, and a strong team,” he said of his ORACLE TEAM USA crew. “We had a big setback recently, but I think if there’s any team that can bounce back, it’s this one.”
Ainslie’s ORACLE TEAM USA teammate Tom Slingsby was also among the nominees for the 2012 ISAF award. Slingsby won gold in the Laser Class at the London 2012 Olympic Games after earning the Laser World Champion title earlier in the year. He previously earned the world sailor honor in 2010.
The other men’s nominees included: Mathew Belcher & Malcolm Page (AUS) – Men’s 470; and Nathan Outteridge & Iain Jensen (AUS) – 49er.
Lijia Xu of China was named the female winner of the 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award.