Team GB's Ben Ainslie wins fourth consecutive gold medal and becomes most prolific Olympic sailor ever

 

The records just keep coming. They began with Bradley Wiggins, who cycled his way to become the Briton with the largest tally of Olympic medals. On Saturday Team GB had its most successful day in more than a century with six golds. And today Ben Ainslie became the greatest sailor in Olympian history.

Sixteen years after he first won a silver as a gangly teenager in Atlanta, Ainslie swept to victory in the Finn class sailing winning a fourth consecutive gold medal and cementing his reputation as the word's most prolific Olympic sailor.

His medal tally now beats that of Denmark's legendary sailor Paul Elvstrom who won four straight golds between 1948 and 1960.

Under brilliant sunshine and a light - if often unpredictable – breeze he swept to victory under the watchful gaze of thousands of spectators who had flocked to the Weymouth coastline to see the Cornish sailor battle in his most important race to date. After a gruelling race Ainslie thanked them in kind by standing up in his boat “Rita” holding two streaming smoke flares above his head.

It was a moment the fans on the Nothe had been desperate to see. Only an hour earlier they watched in dismay as Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson were left heartbroken as their attempt to win a second consecutive gold in the Star class stumbled at the last 300 metres of race.

The British sailors had been out in front throughout the qualifying stages and looked set to successfully defend their Beijing gold off the coast of Weymouth. But a last minute spur by the Swedish team dashed their hopes and pushed the two Brits into second place in the final league table.

Ironically it was another Scandinavian who threatened to stop Ainslie from achieving his dream of becoming the most decorated Olympian sailor. All week the 35-year-old had struggled against Jonas Hogh-Christensen, a powerfully built red-headed Dane who gave up sailing after coming fifth in Beijing to put on concerts for bands like the Rolling Stones – only to return to competitive sailing and dog Ainslie's chances.

Despite going into the competition as odds on favourite Ainslie struggled early on in the week against the “Great Dane” who beat him to the finish line in seven of the ten qualifying races.

But he never gave up and by the time he came to the final race Ainslie had closed the gap to just two points. With the final race being worth double points all he had to do was beat Hogh-Christensen.

There is little love lost between Ainslie and his Danish rival. Earlier in the week Ainslie accused the Dane and a Dutch sailor of unfairly suggesting he had it a mark, forcing him to make a penalty turn.

“They've made me angry,” he said when he was back on dry land. “And you don't want to make me angry."

Despite a poor start revenge came swiftly in the final race as Ainslie managed to inch his way ahead of Hogh-Christensen and keep his rival at the back of the pack forcing the Dane to take silver on points and miss out on the top podium spot.

Speaking to reporters after the match, Ainslie paid tribute to his opponent.

“Jonas sailed one of the best series I've ever seen,” he said. “He pushed me all the way so all credit to him. All I could do was try and stay ahead of him.”

He described the final race as “the most nerve racking experience of my life” but added that the estimated 4,500 spectators who had gathered to cheer him on helped.

“In terms of the opportunity to race in front of a home crowd like that to win an Olympic gold medal, it will never get any better than that,” he said. “We've never experienced that in sailing at the Olympics before really. To have that crowd there, willing you on, it certainly made a difference.”

Hogh-Christensen, who has said he will retire after London 2012, also paid tribute to his British competitor. “There's no doubt, he's the best sailor in modern times,” he said. “But I could give him a run for his money. He won by the smallest margin possible. Obviously I would have liked to have been on top but it wasn't to be and so it is.”

Ainslie, who said he was looking forward to catching up with his family, added that he hoped younger generations would be inspired to take to up sailing.

“When I started sailing in Cornwall as an eight year old in my duffle coat and wellies I never imagined I'd be standing here 28 years later,” he said. “ You never quite know what's going to happen. That's life.”

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?