27/05/2017 - Bermuda (BDA) - 35th America's Cup 2017 - Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers, Day 1,Photo © Gilles Martin-Raget

27/05/2017 – Bermuda (BDA) – 35th America’s Cup 2017 – Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, Day 1, Photo © Gilles Martin-Raget

 

– ORACLE TEAM USA win two from two

– Land Rover BAR collide with SoftBank Team Japan

– Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand, Land Rover BAR and SoftBank Team Japan win one and lose one race each

– Groupama Team France only team not to register a day one race win

– ORACLE TEAM USA and Land Rover BAR are joint top of Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers leaderboard after day one

Sir Ben Ainslie was forced to explain a highly dramatic collision in the first day of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers on Bermuda’s Great Sound.

Having already seen some thrilling and action-packed racing in the first five of the six races that were run on day one, particularly from ORACLE TEAM USA who claimed back-to-back wins, the drama really unfolded in the final race of the day between Land Rover BAR and SoftBank Team Japan.

In what proved the biggest flashpoint of the afternoon, both teams were looking for the advantage going into the start box, before the two boats collided at speed, resulting in a penalty being given to Sir Ben Ainslie and the British team. Damage was sustained to both boats, with the Olympic legend’s boat taking on water after the incident.

In scenes similar to the final week of practice racing, in which Land Rover BAR hit Emirates Team New Zealand, Ainslie again found himself having to defend his actions when questioned after racing.

“To be honest, to me it appeared six of one and half a dozen of the other,” said the Land Rover Bar helmsman, whose team suffered defeat in their second race of the day having enjoyed a morale-boosting win over Artemis Racing earlier in the day in race four.

“The collision was obviously unfortunate but these things happen when you are racing these boats.

“You don’t go out there intending to cause damage and so on that front it is was unfortunate to see both boats with damage.

“Unfortunately I’m not a boat builder so I’m not sure about the extent of the damage just yet, but no doubt both shore teams will be working incredibly hard to make sure we are both ready for tomorrow.

“However, for me it was fantastic just to see us competing and up to speed with all of the others. I believe we have silenced a lot of our doubters and I am just incredibly proud of all of our team.”

Meanwhile, SoftBank Team Japan helmsman Dean Barker, whose team suffered defeat to Artemis Racing in their first race of the day, bounced back with victory in race six and was relieved that none of his team had sustained any injuries in the collision with Land Rover BAR.

“We were incredibly lucky that there were no injuries sustained by the guys,” said the New Zealand native. “Maybe they were still in a bit of shock when we started racing but the way they regrouped and got back into things was fantastic.

“Ben has apologised. Clearly it was their mistake because they caused it but it doesn’t stop the guys in the shore team having to have a big workload tonight to put things right.

“You know what is about to happen. You can see it coming in slow motion but there is nothing you can do to stop it.

“What would have been worse is if their boat came a little bit higher over our hull, that would have been really dangerous.

“Fortunately we were able to carry on with the race and limp our way home. The guys did brilliantly to regroup in reply to what happened and get on with the race.

“The first race against Artemis Racing was disappointing. We had good pace and obviously tried hard to keep ahead but ultimately we couldn’t.

“However, what was pleasing was how we bounced back and got that victory in the final race.”

Meanwhile, it proved a highly positive day for the Defenders of the ‘Auld Mug’, ORACLE TEAM USA, who comfortably beat Groupama Team France in the opening race of the afternoon, before coming from behind to overcome Emirates Team New Zealand in what proved the highlight race of the day.

However, despite seeing ORACLE TEAM USA sit joint top of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers standings with three points, alongside Land Rover BAR, skipper Jimmy Spithill was left far from content as he refused to rest on his laurels ahead of day two tomorrow.

“The lads aren’t happy tonight. We can definitely sharpen up a lot ahead of tomorrow,” said the two-time America’s Cup winner.

“Of course it is good to end the first day with two wins from two races but we have got to sharpen up on what we do out there.

“Consistency is the key in a competition like this and so there is a lot for us to improve on.

“However, as I said, it is pleasing that we managed to finish this first day of competition and come away with two race wins.”

Another helmsman who was left with mixed feelings was Artemis Racing’s Nathan Outteridge, having seen his side claim a victory against SoftBank Team Japan, before somewhat surprisingly losing out to Land Rover BAR in race 4.

“It proved a very tiring first day of racing,” said Outteridge.

“Our first race we started slowly but you could see how hard we pushed to get back into the race and when the opportunity came, we took full advantage.

“The second race against Land Rover BAR, we just didn’t get any opportunity to pass them. It was disappointing to lose the race but we will look at ourselves and see what we can do to improve.

“However to get that first win on the board is really important. We had some strong performances in practice racing and so it was great to be able to bring that forward to today and get a first point banked.

“It was also pleasing to win in in the manner in which we did. We kept chipping away, put pressure on SoftBank Team Japan, and then, to get something, that feeling was really good.”

Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling was left satisfied with his team’s showing on the first day, having also taken one win from the day, overcoming Groupama Team France, before losing out to ORACLE TEAM USA in their second race of the day.

“It is really great for us to have got a win on the board,” said the youngest helmsman competing.

“Having taken that win, we always knew it was going to be tough taking on ORACLE TEAM USA. We put up a strong challenge and matched them throughout the race but they just edged us in the end.

“Having lost it late on was a little frustrating but I’m really happy with our first day on the water.

“We’re now excited to get back into action tomorrow and no doubt we’ll be racing hard again.”

Meanwhile, it proved a difficult day for Groupama Team France, who suffered defeats in both their encounters, losing to both ORACLE TEAM USA and Emirates Team New Zealand.

However, having faced two of the highly-fancied teams on the first day, helmsman Franck Cammas is remaining hopeful of an improved showing from the French team in the days to come.

“Today to have our first two matches against teams like ORACLE TEAM USA and Emirates Team New Zealand was a hard way to start the America’s Cup,” said Cammas.

“We knew those teams were among the best teams but we wanted to be closer to them than we were in the end.

“We have to work hard and try and understand why we weren’t fast today. We also need some big improvements in the maneuvers and so there is a lot to work on for us.

“We will try for sure to improve as quickly as possible. Every day is different and so we will see what tomorrow brings.”

Race results

Race 1: ORACLE TEAM USA beat Groupama Team France
Race 2: Artemis Racing beat SoftBank Team Japan
Race 3: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Groupama Team France
Race 4: Land Rover BAR beat Artemis Racing
Race 5: ORACLE TEAM USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand
Race 6: SoftBank Team Japan beat Land Rover BAR

 

28/02/16 - Muscat (OMN) - 35th America's Cup Bermuda 2017 - Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Oman - Racing Day 2 - Prize Giving Ceremony - Oman Series Winners Land Rover BAR (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

28/02/16 – Muscat (OMN) – 35th America’s Cup Bermuda 2017 – Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman – Racing Day 2 – Prize Giving Ceremony – Oman Series Winners Land Rover BAR (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

Ben Ainslie, the most decorated Olympic sailor in history, led his Land Rover BAR team to victory at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in Oman this weekend.

Ainslie beat his former skipper, Jimmy Spithill and ORACLE TEAM USA, by two points, with the winning margin secured on a late charge in the final race.

Ainslie says winning the event in Oman was an important measuring stick for the team, which hadn’t won since securing victory on home waters in Portsmouth last summer.

28/02/16 - Muscat (OMN) - 35th America's Cup Bermuda 2017 - Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Oman - Racing Day 2 - Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

28/02/16 – Muscat (OMN) – 35th America’s Cup Bermuda 2017 – Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman – Racing Day 2 – Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

“We kept fighting through today,” he said. “Compared to the teams with established track records, we need to prove we can compete at the top of the fleet and I think we are getting back to doing that. We have a big team of designers, boat builders and support staff back at home working very hard for us and they want to know that we can win this thing.”

For ORACLE TEAM USA the second place result was a fourth consecutive podium finish in a Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series regatta. But for all that, the team has yet to win.

“We’ve made some good steps forward, but we need to get going,” Spithill said after racing. “It’s good to be on the podium. We’re one of only two teams to have been on the podium at each event. But we want to win. There’s no two ways about it.”

With a third place result in Oman, Emirates Team New Zealand retains its place atop the overall Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series leaderboard, but ORACLE TEAM USA, in second place, has closed the gap to just 6 points.

28/02/16 - Muscat (OMN) - 35th America's Cup Bermuda 2017 - Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Oman - Racing Day 2 - Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

28/02/16 – Muscat (OMN) – 35th America’s Cup Bermuda 2017 – Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman – Racing Day 2 – Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

“The last race was a little bit disappointing for us,” said skipper Glenn Ashby, referring to a fifth place finish. “But to come away from any event still holding the overall lead is a good thing. At the end of the day that’s what counts.”

Ashby is right. The leader at the conclusion of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series will carry two bonus points forward into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers in May 2017 in Bermuda. The second place team earns one bonus point.

28/02/16 - Muscat (OMN) - 35th America's Cup Bermuda 2017 - Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Oman - Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

28/02/16 – Muscat (OMN) – 35th America’s Cup Bermuda 2017 – Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman – Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

A popular result on Sunday came from Groupama Team France, who finished strongly with a second place finish followed by a victory. With Adam Minoprio replacing the injured Franck Cammas on the helm this weekend, the team converted two strong start line performances into top finishes.

“We were pretty stoked on board. You could see the excitement on the guys faces,” Minoprio said. “We didn’t have the strongest start to the regatta but we’re happy to have been improving through the weekend and finishing with a win.”

Both SoftBank Team Japan and Artemis Racing continued to show moments of promised but fell back in the fleet over the course of the day; bad breaks combined with poor decisions or handling errors to put the pair at the bottom of the table.

28/02/16 - Muscat (OMN) - 35th America's Cup Bermuda 2017 - Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Oman - Racing Day 2 - Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

28/02/16 – Muscat (OMN) – 35th America’s Cup Bermuda 2017 – Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman – Racing Day 2 – Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman marked the first America’s Cup sailing in the Middle East and was a milestone event for the host, Oman Sail.

“This was a fantastic weekend for us,” said David Graham, the CEO of Oman Sail. “Promoting Oman through the America’s Cup broadcast was a fantastic opportunity for us.

“It was also tremendous to see the integration of our youth sailing programs with AC Endeavour. And I think perhaps most significant for me was how the Omanis on our team led the charge and delivered a fantastic event.

“The feedback from our guests, our partners, and all of the visitors who came to enjoy the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman has been extremely positive. Let’s do it again!”

28/02/16 - Muscat (OMN) - 35th America's Cup Bermuda 2017 - Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Oman - Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

28/02/16 – Muscat (OMN) – 35th America’s Cup Bermuda 2017 – Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman – Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman – Final Leaderboard 

Land Rover BAR – 8, 10, 10, 18, 14, 16 – 76 points
ORACLE TEAM USA – 9, 6, 9, 12, 20, 18 – 74 points
Emirates Team New Zealand – 10, 7, 5, 20, 16, 12 – 70 points
Groupama Team France – 5, 8, 7, 10, 18, 20 – 68 points
SoftBank Team Japan – 6, 9, 6, 16, 10, 14 – 61 points
Artemis Racing – 7, 5, 8, 14, 12, 10 – 56 points

#LVACWOMAN  #LVACWS #ACWS

Overall Series Leaderboard Thus Far

28/02/16 - Muscat (OMN) - 35th America's Cup Bermuda 2017 - Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Oman - Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

28/02/16 – Muscat (OMN) – 35th America’s Cup Bermuda 2017 – Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman – Racing Day 2 (Photo © Ricardo Pinto / ACWS)

June 11, 2015. Team SCA wins Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

June 11, 2015. Team SCA wins Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

Skipper Sam Davies (GBR) and her Team SCA crew struck a resounding blow for women’s offshore sailing in the early hours of Thursday morning when they gloriously clinched Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race

June 11, 2015. Team SCA wins Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

June 11, 2015. Team SCA wins Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

Leg 8
DTL

(NM)

GAIN/LOSS

(NM)

DTF

(NM)

Speed

(kt)

SCA1
SCA1 FIN – 03d 13h 11m 11s
VEST
VEST FIN – 03d 13h 59m 38s
ADOR
ADOR 0.3 10.9 3 11.1
MAPF
MAPF 0.8 11.3 4 11.7
TBRU
TBRU 1.8 11.5 5 12.4
ALVI
ALVI 2.3 11.7 5 12.9
DFRT
DFRT 5.5 11.7 8 13.2

Latest positions may be downloaded
from the race dashboard hereº MAPFRE given 2-point penalty Leg 5
Dongfeng Race Team, Team SCA & MAPFRE penalised Leg 7

– A resounding blow for women’s offshore sailing
– Team Vestas Wind bounce back for second place
– Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing nearing overall trophy win

June 11, 2015. Team SCA wins Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

June 11, 2015. Team SCA wins Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

LORIENT, France, June 11 – Skipper Sam Davies (GBR) and her Team SCA crew struck a resounding blow for women’s offshore sailing in the early hours of Thursday morning when they gloriously clinched Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The comfortable victory was the first leg win in offshore sailing’s toughest challenge since Tracy Edwards’ Maidenclinched two stage wins in Class D of the 1989-90 race, won overall by Sir Peter Blake’s famous Steinlager2.

At least as satisfying for the first all-women’s crew to enter the race in 12 years will be the opportunity to silence critics who suggested that they were looking outclassed in the current 12th edition by their experienced male rivals.

True, the Swedish entry had yet to win a podium place until now, but the crew has clearly improved leg after leg and many observers felt that a breakthrough performance was just around the corner.

The win was certainly no fluke in an upwind leg that tested seamanship to the full with an often heinous sea state and strong winds virtually throughout.

June 11, 2015. Team SCA wins Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient. (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

June 11, 2015. Team SCA wins Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient. (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

They grabbed the 647-nautical mile leg from Lisbon by the scruff of the neck on Monday, and strengthened that grip on Tuesday after taking an offshore course while most of their rivals hugged the Spanish and French coast approaching the Bay of Biscay.

It took them three days 13 hours 11 minutes and 11 seconds to grab their share of Race history.

“Thanks to everybody for all your support. It’s not really sunk in yet,” said a jubilant Davies. “It probably won’t hit us until we hit the dock and we see there aren’t any other boats there.

“It’s a reward for all the hard work we have done. It’s a great confidence booster. It’s going to be huge for us. We’ve had a mountain to climb to get here.”

June 11, 2015. Team Vestas Wind arrives in second position for Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

June 11, 2015. Team Vestas Wind arrives in second position for Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

Behind them, another fairy-tale was unfolding as Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) closed to a remarkable second-placed finish in their return to the race after six months out following a collision with an Indian Ocean reef on November 29 during Leg 2.

Nicholson had every reason for the huge smile on his face as he approached the port of Lorient following a near perfect race from Lisbon starting on Sunday.

He had simply hoped that his boat could negotiate the leg without mishap and be competitive – a high podium finish is almost beyond his wildest dreams.

June 11, 2015. Team Vestas Wind arrives in second position for Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

June 11, 2015. Team Vestas Wind arrives in second position for Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

“It’s a very special moment,” said the team’s Onboard Reporter, Brian Carlin (IRL), simply.

Astern of the leading pair, third-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) were nearing an ever bigger prize than the handsome silver leg trophy claimed by Team SCA.

They needed simply to finish ahead of their nearest overall pursuers in the standings,Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) and Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), with a boat in between, to be all but be sure of winning the 12th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

As Team SCA passed the finish at 0211 UTC/0411 local time on Thursday, that prospect looked very much on with MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) in fourth, Team Brunel fifth, and Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) keeping Dongfeng Race Team at bay in the fight for sixth.

The boats will have a short maintenance period before Sunday’s SCA In-Port Race here in Lorient, before the fleet set sail for Gothenburg via a much-awaited pit-stop in The Hague, on Tuesday, June 16.

It promises to be a period of considerable celebration for at least three crews of very, very happy sailors.

June 11, 2015. Team SCA wins Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

June 11, 2015. Team SCA wins Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient (Photo by Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

A Race Day To Remember
1459 entries / 1323 finished  /  52 retirements  /  6 OCS  /  DSQ

Saturday 1st June was certainly a day to remember, a day of highs, and more highs and, it was a day for Round the Island Race records to tumble.  It was the day when Great Britain’s most successful Olympic sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie and his all-British crew aboard J.P. Morgan BAR, trounced the existing Round the Island Race multihull record, held for 12 years, by an impressive 16 minutes.

In the monohull fleet the biggest boat in the IRC classes, Mike Slade’s 100ft ICAP Leopard was not far behind. He crossed the finish line 40 minutes after Ainslie, shaving almost ten minutes off the monohull race record he had set back in 2008.

Title sponsor J.P. Morgan Asset Management, summed up their team’s thoughts on the day. Jasper Berens, Head of UK, J.P. Morgan Assert Management, commented: “It’s so fantastic to be here and to raise such superb amounts for the Race charity, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. It was a vintage year in terms of weather and the racing and it was incredible to see so many happy, smiling faces in Cowes. The fact that Ben and his team on J.P. Morgan BAR achieved the Round the Island race multihull record, just topped it off. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year.”

On behalf of the Island Sailing Club, Dave Atkinson, Race Safety Officer, had little cause for concern during his long day that started at 0245 and finished at 2350. He commented: “We had the least number of incidents to deal with for a very long time and nothing major occurred out on the water. The entire Race team, that numbers around 170 people on the day and ranged from spotters to results teams, cannot be praised highly enough.”

Today, Sunday 2nd June, wrapped everything up nicely with more great weather and the Race Prize giving which was held at the Island Sailing Club where the Commodore Rod Nicholls was joined on stage by Corrie McQueen from J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to hand out the gold and silverware to the deserving prizewinners.

The most coveted prize, the Gold Roman Bowl and JPMAM Salver for First Overall IRC went to 5 West, the TP52 owned and helmed by Sir Keith Mills and Robert Greenhalgh.
The Silver Roman Bowl and JPMAM Salver for Second Overall IRC went to Pace and Johnny Vincent. The Observer Trophy and JPMAM Trophy for First Monohull to finish went to Mike Slade and ICAP Leopard.

Next year, the Race is held on Saturday 21st June and the Island Sailing Club, the title sponsor J.P. Morgan Asset Management and the family of Race Partners all look forward to welcoming everyone back to Cowes.

Article by Peta Stuart-Hunt the race press officer

Photos courtesy of Barry James Wilson

Cilck on Image to Enlarge

 

 

Ben Ainslie and Lijia Xu ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year by Kurt Arrigo

Ben Ainslie and Lijia Xu ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year (Photo by Rolex / Kurt Arrigo)

Ben Ainslie (GBR) and Lijia Xu (CHN) were named the male and female winners of the 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards at a ceremony held at the Mansion House, Dublin, Ireland on Tuesday 6 November.

2012 Awards

The ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards takes place during the International Sailing Federation’s (ISAF) Annual Conference, which this year is being held in Dun Laoghaire. The award ceremony welcomes the pinnacle of the sailing world including sailors, officials and conference delegates.

The annual Awards, sponsored by Rolex since 2001, are the highest honour a sailor can receive and is recognition of achievement in a twelve-month period, in this case from 1 September 2011 to 31 August 2012.

 
 
Competition for the 2012 Awards was formidable, with four outstanding female and five equally exceptional male candidates short-listed from a list of nominations made by the public at large. The winners were decided by the votes of the over 130 Member National Authorities of ISAF. Suspense was maintained until the very last minute, with the nominees and guests unaware who had won until the official announcement itself.

Ben Ainslie (GBR) – History Boy

The greatest of his generation. Four Olympic gold medals and now as many ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards. Ben Ainslie is the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. The 35-year old’s achievement at London 2012 elevated him to five Olympic medals (four gold, one silver), surpassing Rolex Testimonee Paul Elvstrøm (DEN), winner of four gold medals between 1948 and 1960. On receiving the award, Ainslie paid tribute to the team that has supported him: “Winning the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year award is a huge honour, especially for everyone who has helped me. There is a huge team in the background from family, friends, coaches and sponsors who helped make it happen. It is an honour to be part of such a group of exceptional sailors who were put forward for this award.”

Ainslie headed into his home Olympics under a colossal weight of expectation. He was given the honour of welcoming the Olympic torch on its arrival in the United Kingdom, and was chosen as the first of 8,000 torchbearers. Fittingly, after making history on the waters off Weymouth, Ainslie was selected as Team GB’s flag bearer at the Closing Ceremony. “To take part in a home Olympics was a completely unique experience,” reflected Ainslie. “I have never felt quite the same level of expectation but also level of support.”

Once competition started, it was another Dane – Jonas Høgh-Christensen – who contrived to stand between Ainslie and his fourth Olympic Gold. Ainslie began the 2012 competition better than any previous Games, but not as well as Christensen. Ainslie needed to react and he used a racecourse incident during the second half of the week to channel his competitive energy. The reigning Olympic champion found a new level, won two of the last four races and went into the decisive medal race needing to beat the relentless Dane but avoid conceding too many points to his other closest rivals. In front of a partisan crowd and following a nail-biting encounter, Ainslie emerged victorious. He cut an exhausted and emotional figure on the finish line. “These Olympics were not that easy for me, sometimes it flows, sometimes you have to fight for it,” he admitted. “It was tough fight all the way to the finish. Taking the gold medal in front of a home crowd – I don’t think I will ever experience an emotion quite like that again.”

Ainslie has been at the top for 20 years, enduring enormous self-sacrifice in his quest for perfection. A pursuit that involves never giving an inch in training sessions and a relentless competition schedule. His remarkable career has seen him claim nine European titles and ten world championships – the first back in 1993. Few sportsmen, in any discipline, have been at the forefront of their profession for such a sustained period.

He has given the sport some of its finest moments including two epic battles with Rolex Testimonee Robert Scheidt (BRA) at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games – duels that drew a wider public to sailing.

Driven and passionate, Ainslie is a compelling character whose future in the sport is expected to  concentrate on his desire to launch a British America’s Cup challenge. As part of his ‘apprenticeship’ Ainslie is part of Team Oracle under the stewardship of two-time ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Russell Coutts, and alongside the 2010 ISAF Rolex World Sailor, Tom Slingsby.

 There are a lot of fantastic sailors out there and when
you look at someone like Paul Elvstrøm, he
revolutionised the sport of sailing in his day and I
certainly don’t think I can claim to have done that  
         Ben Ainslie
Ainslie’s excellence in the sport has been recognised with this record fourth ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award following titles gained in 1998, 2002 and 2008. However, Ainslie remains modest about his momentous achievements: “There are a lot of fantastic sailors out there and when you look at someone like Paul Elvstrøm, he revolutionised the sport of sailing in his day and I certainly don’t think I can claim to have done that. I am very fortunate to have had the support to do what I have.”

Lijia Xu (CHN) – Immense Competitor

The inspirational Lijia Xu etched her name in the history books in August 2012 becoming the first Chinese, and indeed Asian, sailor to win an Olympic Gold medal in a dinghy sailing boat. “I didn’t expect to be the winner,” admitted Xu. “It is an honour to be named ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and become the first sailor from China to receive this award. I hope this award can inspire more children in China to take up the sport.”

 It is an honour to be named ISAF Rolex World
Sailor of the Year and become the first sailor
from China to receive this award   
          Lijia Xu
Xu triumphed in the Laser Radial, one of the tightest and most dramatic competitions at London 2012. This after the Shanghai-born sailor hardly made an auspicious start to competition, finishing in the top three positions in only one of the first six races. During the second half of the week, Xu’s class came to the fore. In a manner reminiscent of her fellow 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, she showed grit and determination to put herself in pole position for the deciding medal race.

Going into that final race, Xu could not afford to slip up with three rivals all in strong contention. In a winner takes all finalé, the 25-year old Chinese sailor sailed best, winning the race and adding Olympic Gold to the Bronze she claimed in Beijing. Her victory lap following the dramatic medal race was one of the sailing competition’s iconic moments. “It was a fantastic medal race that will be remembered forever,” said Xu. “On crossing the finishing line I realized not only my own dream but also the whole nation’s dream. Many people strived for this gold for so many years and despite all the difficulties and setbacks we conquered it.”

Victory in London proved the crowning achievement following an impressive year, where she won three ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas and peaked at the right time after claiming an impressive silver medal during a highly competitive Laser Radial World Championship in May.

A keen swimmer in her youth, Xu’s passion for sailing began from the age of 10 when she started Optimist sailing in Shanghai. She took to the sport immediately. By 2001, at the age of 14, she was Girls’ Optimist World Champion, a title she reclaimed in 2002.  Her story is one of resilience. Xu has battled significant hearing and sight problems and missed out on a place at the Athens Olympics in 2004, when a routine medical examination revealed a tumour in her leg that subsequently required major surgery.

Xu bounced back and in 2006 won the Laser Radial Women’s World Championship. That success, together with the Bronze medal gained at Beijing, on the back of a serious hand injury, propelled Xu onto the international stage. “The most challenging part of my career has been facing injuries. It is important to never give in, never yield,” added Xu.

Xu, who was also her nation’s flag bearer at the Closing Ceremony of London 2012 is assessing whether to mount a campaign for the 2016 Games in Rio. In the meantime, she is taking time to complete her studies and reflect on the love she has for her sport: “Sailing has given me the chance to chase my dreams and the stage to show my potential. It has provided me with the opportunity to see, feel and explore the world. Sailing leads me to a path of a better life, a life full of vitality, excitement and joyful experiences.”

Xu is only the second Asian sailor to be named ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year following in the footsteps of female windsurfer Lee Lai Shan (HKG) who won in 1996.
Double Olympic gold medallist and World Sailor of the Year in 2000, Shirley Robertson, hosted the ceremony. The Awards were presented by ISAF President of Honour HM King Constantine and Joël Aeschlimann of Rolex SA. Both winners were presented with a Rolex timepiece and an ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year trophy.

A Stellar Supporting Class

In addition to the two winners, the list of nominees for the 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award included:

Male

Mathew Belcher & Malcolm Page (AUS) – Men’s 470 – London 2012 Olympic Gold Medallists, 2011 and 2012 World Champions & 2011-12 ISAF Sailing World Cup Champions

Nathan Outteridge & Iain Jensen (AUS) – 49er – London 2012 Olympic Gold Medallists & 2011 and 2012 World Champions

Loïck Peyron (FRA) – Outright Around the World Record

Tom Slingsby (AUS) – Laser – London 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist & 2011 and 2012 World Champion

Female

Tamara Echegoyen, Angela Pumariega and Sofía Toro (ESP) – Women’s Match Racing – London 2012 Olympic Gold Medallists

Helena Lucas (GBR) – 2.4mR – London 2012 Paralympic Gold Medallist and 2011-12 ISAF Sailing World Cup Champion

Saskia Sills (GBR) – RS:X – ISAF Youth Sailing World Champion & European Youth Champion

With the exception of Loïck Peyron all of the nominees attended the Awards Ceremony, celebrating a year of outstanding achievement.

ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards

The winners of the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards are decided by vote by the over 130 Member National Authorities of ISAF following a worldwide selection process that begins with an open invitation for nominations. Two awards, one for a female sailor/crew and one for a male sailor/crew, are presented to the individuals who are deemed to have most distinguished themselves during the qualifying period.

For Further Information

Please visit the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards microsite at:  www.sailing.org/worldsailor

ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2012 nominees (from left) Saskia Sills (GBR), Iain Jensen (AUS), Nathan Outteridge (AUS), Tamara Echegoyen (ESP), Sofía Toro (ESP), Angela Pumariega (ESP), Tom Slingsby (AUS), Mathew Belcher (AUS), Helena Lucas (GBR), Malcolm Page (AUS), Lijia Xu (CHN) (Photo by Rolex / Kurt Arrigo)