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BEST OF BRITISH – ICON

Henri Lloyd

“THE SKILL AND DEDICATION HE HAS TO HIS SPORT HAS BEEN UNDERWRITTEN WITH A RUTHLESSNESS THAT ONLY THOSE WHO GO DOWN IN HISTORY POSSESS” escape him and was disqualified from the race. “They were burning effigies of me in the streets of Sao Paolo after that”, he says, “Australian Secret Service informed me that they had even intercepted death threats but I had no qualms about what I did. I’d done it before and would do it again. In fact, I did do it again to win in China in 2008.” The story is a revelation on two levels. First, that there can be such a fiercely adversarial edge to competitive sailing that it would surely engage a much wider British audience if sailing tactics were more fully understood (or publicised). Secondly, that Brazilians actually care quite that much about their sailing. Perhaps the Brazilians had discovered this mercilessly combative component to sailing long ago and that’s why they’re instinctively much more emotionally engaged with their own competitors than we are, even if they haven’t won a thing since Ben Ainslie has been competing. Considering Ainslie is now ranked in the top three competitive sailors in the history of the world and was the only British sportsperson to be holding a ‘Grand Slam’ of European, World and Olympic titles at the time, does he feel disheartened, aggrieved even, that in his home country his profile and/or that of his sport wasn’t high enough to win him the 2008 BBC Sports Personality of the Year nor the 2008 Sport’s Journalists

Association of Great Britain’s Sportsman of the Year (both went to Olympic Cyclist, Chris Hoy)? “It would be nicer if the sport itself had a higher profile, even though it has come a long way from when I first started, but personal recognition brings its own issues because you still have to go out and prove yourself in your next race.” It’s a reasoned and rational answer but you do get the feeling that if you put him in a boat on rough waters and told him Scheidt was coming, the answer to that question might be a little more stark. It goes without saying that Ainslie should be much more highly and widely regarded in the UK than he currently is. We may have a number of new and emerging sports stars now but Ainslie had already achieved his legendary status long before being a full time competitor in one of the less easily accessible sports was a real and viable option. Not that he isn’t being pro-active (if not necessarily vocal) about it. High profile sponsorship from Global investment firm J.P. Morgan sits alongside marketing and advertising deals with exclusive Swiss watch makers, Corum, and British fashion brand, Henri Lloyd. An autobiography, Close to the Wind, hit stores in September and there are also a growing number of female fans who have become more interested in sailing since they realised Ben was involved (let alone its master.) I wonder if there might be a temptation to make

him something of a ‘David Beckham’ of sailing? “I’m not about to be seen on billboards advertising Calvin Klein’s anytime soon, if that’s what you mean”, he says with a laugh. “I’ve been on the fringes of that celebrity premiere type scene before and I haven’t really liked what I’ve seen. Not my style.” Ask him about his future goals though and there’s no embarrassed laughter. With London 2012 looming the prospect of his fourth gold medal at his fifth Olympic games is the immediate ambition. “I’ll be 35 by 2012 so it will probably be my last Olympics but it would be the goal of any British sportsman to try and win gold on home territory. After that it’s going to get physically hard to compete at the highest level.” The bigger goal though is skippering his yachting team, Origin, to glory in The America’s Cup, yachting’s premiere event. “I’ve had success in the Olympics already and the America’s Cup is the one thing left for me that I haven’t won.” In fact, a British team has never won the America’s Cup in its 158 year history. Imagine how long that record will stand once Ainslie dedicates his full time and attention to it? Somebody should warn the yachting world that there’s a storm coming... Ben Ainslie’s autobiography, Close to the Wind, is available now.

28 URBAN LIFE

STORM.indd 4

21/09/2009 20:43

Profile for Urban Life Magazine

Urban Life - London's premier (free) luxury lifestyle magazine  

Urban Life is a London-based luxury lifestyle magazine, aimed at the professional/affluent Londoner. Features reflect the tastes and aspira...

Urban Life - London's premier (free) luxury lifestyle magazine  

Urban Life is a London-based luxury lifestyle magazine, aimed at the professional/affluent Londoner. Features reflect the tastes and aspira...

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