On Sunday 5 August 2012, Team GB desperately needed their second "banker" to put gold on the table. Funding for the four years to Rio 2016 could hang on the result of the Finn race. After the failure of Ian Percy and Andrew Simpson to capture the Star gold, next up on the Medal course was Ben Ainslie, who had struggled all week to overcome Dane Jonas Hogh-Christensen.
Percy and Simpson had clung onto the gold until the final leg when Brazil moved ahead of them on the water and gifted the gold to Fredrik Loof and Max Salminen of Sweden. After that upset Ainslie had to sail one of the races of his life to beat Hogh-Christensen, who had led the Finn event all week, if Team GB were to get sailing gold in 2012.
Click image for a larger image
Dutch sailor, Pieter-Jan Postma, almost spoilt the party. He got away as Ainslie covered Hogh-Christensen, but nearing the finish he was called for a foul and had to do turns which dropped him to fifth round the final mark and across the finish line, taking him out of the medals. Ainslie came home safely in ninth and ahead of Hogh-Christensen, to take his fourth Gold medal and fifth medal in total.
Team GB now had one gold and one silver, three more would follow, a total of five medals and importantly that one gold, and a gold that created a lot of media interest, as Ainslie became the greatest sailing Olympian, passing the four golds of the Dane Paul Elvestrom.
It was the worse overall medal performance by Team GBR since 2000, and also their lowest gold medal count since 2004, but the Ainslie gold had grabbed the headlines. Ainslie was up there with the multi-medallist rowers and cyclists - sporting royalty. For the British media ticking up the gold count, Ainslie was sailing, everything else was swept away.
On 18 December UK Sport announced the funding for Rio 2016 and somehow Team GBR received a 6.8% increase, up from £22,942,700 to £24,515,072. The RYA rushed out a PR minutes after the announcement as if they thought it might be taken back.
The Ainslie effect was complete and I am sure Team GBR will raise a glass to (Sir) Ben Ainslie this New Years Eve as they sail into another well-funded year.
28 December 2012 9:12