Last time I chatted to you guys about sailing at Weymouth and Portland and how much the area means to me. People often ask what it's like sailing all over the world
and how the conditions compare to venues around the UK. From Sydney to Bermuda to the UK, the conditions are worlds apart (literally and figuratively)!
When you think about it, the water is my office. My career has taken me to so many
incredible places, I feel very honoured to have seen so much of the world. If I had to choose one favourite, it would have to be Sydney. It's by far the most beautiful natural harbour in the world. With 240km of shoreline, there are so many places to sail and explore. On a warm sunny day, the harbour is vibrant blue; dotted with hundreds of sailboats, cruise boats and ferries. Sydney has a special energy about it... Sailing is in the blood over there and it's amazing to be around people who love and live for the water.
My second favourite place to sail is probably San Francisco. Like Sydney, it's a
beautiful natural harbour with a special something. Sailing is a San Francisco pastime; it's also home to the 2013 America's Cup Finals and the Louis Vuitton Cup,
America's Cup Challenger Series, and very much on the sailing "map" for the
next few years.
But there's one place that I haven't managed to get to yet... Somewhere natural, pristine and breathtakingly beautiful... but very, very cold! Somewhere that makes
Weymouth feel balmy and tropical... Have you guessed where yet? I'm talking about Greenland... With no roads, boats are a way of life in Greenland and sailing through its icy blue waters and glaciers would be a dream come true for me.
I have a very busy year ahead of me with the London 2012 Olympic Games etc. But I hope I can find some time and get to Greenland soon.
Speak to you soon,
Not only is Weymouth and Portland part of Britain's World Heritage Coast, it provides some of the best natural sailing waters in the UK. The site has already hosted numerous international sailing events so it's no surprise then that the harbour will be the venue for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sailing competitions.
So, how do sailing events actually work then? 10 medal events will be held with each event consisting of a series of races. Points in each race are awarded according to position. The winner gets one point; the second-places finisher gets two points and so on. The final race is called the "Medal Race" where points are doubled. Following the medal race the individual/crew with the fewest total points is declared the winner. Got it? Good!
Now that the technical bit is out of the way, we can talk about the fun stuff. As a sailing venue, Weymouth is brilliant. It's put me through my paces over the years and often has a sneaky trick up its sleeve. The topography and lay of the land provides a great challenge and I always enjoy a good battle out on the water. Weather wise, it's windy and cold! Luckily there's loads of hot chocolate back on land afterwards.
On a more personal note, sailing at Weymouth for the London 2012 Olympic Games means the world to me. I remember sailing there as a youngster and it holds a very special place in my heart. The sailing academy at Weymouth has grown and developed with me. As the venue became more established and respected in the sailing world, so did I. We've helped one another become who we are today, and for the London 2012 Olympic Games to be held there, feels like it's all come full circle.
I can't wait to sail for a home crowd and see how my competition handles the venue I've come to know and love. After the Games, the sailing academy will benefit from the state of the art facilities left behind. The legacy of Weymouth is very important to me and I hope the young guns of today will have the same opportunity to learn, grow and shape their futures there just like I did.
Speak to you soon,
People often ask about my exercise regimen and the kind of training I
need to do to be fast and powerful on the water. As a youngster I realised that you need a powerful core to sail, so I've always concentrated on that part of my body the most. When I changed to Finn Class, I had to gain 15 kilos to handle the physical demands of a bigger boat.
Sailing is a gruelling sport. You're basically pushing water out of the
way for your boat to move through. You're pulling down sails, and then putting them back up, all while rocking the boat to propel it forward.
It's simple - the more effort you put in, the further you go. Just like
in life. So understandably, training for sailing is different to many other
sports. Doing loads of weights in the gym doesn't prepare your body in the same way as sailing. So when I'm at gym, I focus on cardio and aerobic exercises. Cardio is important because I need to maintain, lose or gain weight depending on the demands of my next regatta. It helps to be heavier in a breeze and lighter with little wind. So when I'm preparing for a regatta somewhere windy like Australia, I do heavier weights with fewer repetitions and vice versa. If I'm going somewhere still and calm like China, I'll do more reps with lighter weights and avoid the pies.
Not only do I love giving my body a challenge and seeing the results, I am
passionate about different kinds of sports fitness. Last year I joined
the Harlequins (Premiership Rugby Club) for a training session and to see how we compared physically and mentally. I love rugby so this was a great opportunity to learn more about the demands of our sports and of course - have a laugh. The session tested our individual aerobic fitness, ball handling, muscle strength and decision-making ability. It wasn't easy but I had a brilliant time and I'm looking forward to incorporating a few things I learnt into my pre-Olympic training programme.
I hope that gives you a bit more insight into what I do outside of the boat to perform at my best.
Speak to you soon,
In my last blog I told you a bit about what I've been up to lately but I haven't really told you how I got to this point and about all the milestones that lead me here. I started sailing at the age of 4 and my parents bought me my first dinghy when I was 8 and I competed for the first time when I was 10.
My dad Roderick "Roddy" Ainslie captained a boat that took part in the very first "Whitbread Round the World Race" in 1973, so I suppose that instilled something in me. When I was 11, I participated in my first international competition in Japan. I absolutely loved sailing as I kid; I gave it everything I had every time I was out on the water. I was quite a shy kid so I was happy being on my boat on my own for a few hours. I was invited to the national squad when I was 11 and competed for a few years after that. When I was 17, I started thinking about the 1996 Olympic Games - it seemed like a natural transition to make for the time. My parents came with me to Atlanta where I managed to clinch silver and become the world's youngest Olympic sailing medalist. I still remember feeling a bit disappointed though. I wanted more. I wanted Olympic gold.
Four years later I went to Sydney and got it. After Sydney I spent a year with the "One World Challenge" America's Cup Campaign, but I realised that switching to Finn Class was what I wanted to do. Changing to Finn was hard work; I had to put on 15 kilos to be the ideal weight for the class! But eventually the hard work paid off and I won the Finn World Championships.
Sailing at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 was well, memorable. The venue was notorious. It had tricky light winds and very strong tides. Oh, and I had mumps. But I sailed through it and won my third consecutive Olympic gold medal. One of my proudest moments was being honoured Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's New Year Honours List in 2009. Since then, I've been preparing for the London 2012 Olympic Games where I hope to win my fourth consecutive gold on home waters!
Speak to you soon,
The last month has been jam-packed, and with less than a year to go until the Games, I'm sure it's only the beginning. I recently competed in the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta as part of the London Prepares series, which is the official Test Event for the sailing at the London 2012 Olympic Games. After a week of long hard racing, I managed to clinch Finn Gold, which is a hugely exciting and always a bit of a relief.
I managed to enjoy a little bit of downtime after the Pre Olympic Games regatta in Weymouth but because I need to try build some weight for the Games next year, I've been doing regular (and intensive!) weight training sessions throughout.
After my break, I joined the Oman Air team for the Extreme 40 Sailing Series in Trapani and Nice. Extreme Sailing is totally different to Finn and it took my out of my comfort zone entirely. The experience was explosive - much harder and faster than the sailing I'm used to. That being said, it was great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. Also, the Extreme 40 is great practice and preparation for the San Diego leg of the America's Cup, which I'll be doing in November.
Needless to say the last 12 weeks have been a bit chaotic, but I have a wonderful support system of people who help me plan and co-ordinate everything I need to do. From regattas and training sessions to sponsorship and family commitments, it's a never-ending race against time. We laugh about it, but sometimes it feels like I have my own personal logistics team that make sure I'm in the right place at the right time.
Speak to you soon,
It's an honour to be selected to compete for Team GB at the 2012 Olympics, having my selection for 2012 confirmed is obviously a big relief
With only one place per nation available the competition was strong. Great Britain had four sailors in the top five on the world ranking (Giles Scott, Ed Wright, Andrew Mill and Mark Andrews) all battling for the one place at the Olympics. It meant I had to be at my best in every race to beat them and it's a credit to those guys and how they pushed me all the way in every event.
After two years away from Olympic sailing I came back last November after a spell with the British America's Cup team and I knew the pressure would be on to get back to form both physically and tactically. At the first event in Perth, as expected, I struggled. My fitness levels just weren't up to scratch and I was too light for the boat.
After a hard winter of training, it was important for me to hit form coming into qualification year. After a second place in Miami in January everything came together pretty well. I was sailing the boat well and physically I had improved to near to my best form. I probably sailed at my best at the qualification regatta in June (Skandia Sail for Gold), it was one of the hardest events I've competed in, and winning there was decisive.
Even though it's just me in the boat, it really has been a team effort. My coach David (Sid) Howlett has been working on equipment development as well as coaching on the water. Mark Andrews has been a really good training partner on and off the water and finally on the fitness/nutrition side Alex Hobson has kept me fit and in good shape for specific events.
Next up is the ISAF World Championships (Finn Gold Cup) in Perth, Australia this December - I'll be heading out there in style at end of October thanks to British Airways! And UPS have expertly taken care of my equipment logistics knowing the equipment is safe is a worry off my mind I'm fully expecting my boat to arrive on time for the first time ever!
Last week I competed in the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta which was the Test Event for the sailing at next year's Olympic Games. In terms of qualification this was a massive event and my aim was to get the best possible result - which after a good weeks racing I managed to come out on top.
The week was physically demanding so I was pretty tired by the end, but to be able to celebrate with a good amount of spectators watching the racing close by was a great feeling. Some of my family where able to attend so it was pretty special to be able to celebrate with them afterwards.
The Test Event (like the Olympics) has a much smaller fleet compared to the normal Finn events we compete in, as there is only one entry per nation, and tactically you Race with a much different mindset. Last week I was able to sail my own race which was a little bit more relaxing, though to be honest not much.
I would hope with my performances this year and winning the last two events at the Weymouth & Portland Olympic Games Venue, I have done enough and ticked all the boxes to qualify for the Games. I think its key to have as much time to prepare for the Games, concentrating on competing against the other nations rather than the sailors from your own nation.
I believe the sailing will be a great spectacle down in Weymouth if they get the courses right - There was a good crowd watching us on Saturday which was fantastic and it will be unbelievable next year with several thousand people watching, having people cheering you on can really make a difference for the sailors.
Team GB wise it was a great performance we won six medals and came top of the medal table, which really puts out stamp down on the venue. We have a great support team in the background and they have been a huge part of the team's success.
I would like to thank all my sponsors for their support, when I got back in the Finn last November I had a lot to catch up on in my both my fitness, time in the boat and boat development. Without the support of my sponsors I wouldn't have been able to achieve the intense training and competition schedule that has helped me back to my near best....I am looking forward to the next 12 months.
I hope to see many of you soon and thanks for your support
It has been almost two months since the Sail for Gold Regatta ended back in June. In that time I have been focused on training down in The Weymouth and Portland Olympic Venue with my training partner Mark Andrews. Portland has been pretty quiet and these are the hard yards when you're out on the water day after day with only two boats pushing each other along. Mark and David Howlett, my coach, have been great in getting the best out of the training and trying to keep the level up for the Pre Olympic Regatta which starts on the 6th August.
It hasn't been totally relentless training as I have enjoyed a few different excursions on behalf of my sponsors.
Competing in the Round the Island Race was great fun. The conditions for the race were full on and we suffered a casualty within the first 20 mins of the race, as we had to off load one extremely ill journalist into a support RIB. Rugby World Cup winner Will Greenwood was sailing on the boat and kept us all entertained with banter whilst also doing a pretty impressive job grinding the sails in and out. During the Race we suffered three blown out spinnakers which hampered our overall result. However, in the end I was just happy that we made it back to the dock safe with the same number of crew with which we started (well minus one!).
I also trained with the Harlequins 7's rugby team,it was great fun and physically very challenging but hugely enjoyable, it was interesting to see the cross over in the training plans and look at some of their reaction training. The guys have made this week's Premiership 7's final (1900 Friday 5th Twickenham Stoop) and I hope they go onto win it.
Last week, I spent a bit of time with UPS, they control the logistics for the London PreparesTest event based out of the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy. It's amazing when you hear the amount of items that have to be transported and setup to make the individual venues practical and fit for the Games. It's a huge job for UPS but they certainly seem up for the task and it was great to learn more about their business.
I've just come back from a short 'Holding Camp' for the Pre Olympic sailing team. We hopped on a bus from Portland and went off for a two day break to help with team bonding, a bit of R&R and go through the plans for the Regatta itself.
The Pre Olympic Regatta is a crucial event for us all! It's another step in the selection cycle for the Olympic team. A top result would tick another box on the selection committee's criteria and make selection a possibility. As a competitor though you can't afford to be distracted by this, it's a case of focusing on the normal routines and getting the best possible out of each day. I can't wait to get out there and get racing again.
Thanks for all the support.
Weymouth and Portland International Regatta (Test Event) 31 July - 13 August 2011
Finn Sailing 6-13 August (Medal Race13th)
My preparations have gone well
Things are starting to get interesting down here in Weymouth and Portland. With only a few days until the start of the Sail for Gold regatta the venue here has changed dramatically. The weather has also done an about turn and it looks as though summer may have come back, for a few days at least!
Anyone who has any aspiration to be racing in the games next summer is here and for many teams, including the British, this event will be an important selection marker for the London Prepares test event in August.
My preparations have gone well. The hard work over the winter has seen some big improvements in speed and fitness which translated into some decent results in the last few regattas. The Sail For Gold regatta will no doubt be a different challenge to most (the weather in England is never very reliable) but the last five weeks training here have helped to get an idea of the race course and it's nuances. Like anything else the preparation is key as it gives you the confidence to go out and race knowing that you've done all you possibly can and the only thing left is to do it justice out on the race course.
The British competition will be very tough with Ed Wright and Giles Scott sailing well at the top end of the fleet. If it's windy I also wouldn't rule out Andrew Mills or Mark Andrews. Consistency will be critical if the conditions get tricky.
Thanks to everyone for their support .
All the hard work starts to pay off
THE PRINCESS SOFIA MAPFRE TROPHY, PALMA
Palma was a great week, a good result and also the perfect chance to test the kit and my fitness in a range of conditions.
The first day was big, (30 knots/34mph) it certainly blew away the cobwebs! I hadn't sailed the Finn in those conditions for a long time, maybe even 3 years, so a 5th and 4th place was an okay start but certainly some improvements are needed in these conditions.
Some are questioning that the event might have had a different outcome if the winds had been stronger. It will be interesting to see how things go with consistently heavier conditions. Guys like Giles Scott, Ed Wright and the Finnish sailor Tapio Nirkko all showed great speed on the first day. It's certainly an area I'm working hard on in order to make improvements with the set up of the boat.
We had pretty varied conditions for the rest of the week, 8-12 knots, which meant the free pumping rule came in to play. Palma had waves compared to flat water regattas like Miami, this meant good technique and being smart was just as important as brute strength and endurance. In terms of gauging how I'm doing in a range of conditions - it was a fantastic event.
I've been luckily to have my own team out in Palma for the past 3 months, working hard with my coach Sid (David Howlett) and training partner Mark (Mark Andrews) on the development of the kit and that's certainly seen positive results. Alex (Alex Hopson - Physio and Trainer) has helped massively on the fitness, massage and keeping my body in a condition to race hard.
After the first day of racing the body was pretty sore, Alex was there to make sure I recovered for the next day. The process usually starts in the morning with light exercise and preparation stretching then after racing the same again but more of a cool down and this helps the muscles repair for the next day. You don't get much recovery time and with the varied conditions in Palma you use different muscle groups each day.
After spending three years match racing I have had to get my head back into fleet racing and I feel the tactics and boat setup has improved and I will take confidence from the results and in particular the medal race.
It was also great to see the other Team GBR sailors doing so well, with great performances from Paul Goodison in the Laser and Iain Percy & Andrew 'Bart' Simpson in the Star.
LONDON 2012 IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER
Just before the Palma regatta, I attended the launch of the UPS London 2012 Ambassador programme, I was asked to officially open the first London 2012 logistics centre alongside other UPS ambassadors, Denise Lewis and Steve Rider. It was great to catch up with Denise again, we go back a long way having both won Gold medals at the Sydney Olympics. UPS is responsible for virtually all the distribution and logistics services for the London 2012 Olympic Games and taking part in the launch really brought home the scale of an event like the Olympics and how in reality it's just around the corner. With an event like sailing, there is so much equipment that needs to be transported to off-site venues like The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, it's good to know that all these logistics are in good hands.
Next up is France and Hyeres Olympic Regatta (23 - 29 April). I'm back in the gym this week putting the weight on that you naturally lose with all the time on the water last week, then next week we will be back training hard out in Hyeres ahead of the regatta. Hyeres's
is infamous for its mistral* which can last 3 days so it could make for an interesting regatta!
The mistral is a strong, cold and usually dry regional wind in France, It sometimes lasts only one or two days, frequently lasts several days, and sometimes lasts more than a week.
The free pumping rules permit pumping, rocking and ooching when the wind speed exceeds a specified limit, the race committee may signal that those actions are permitted, as specified in the class rules, by displaying flag O
ISAF Sailing World Cup Event: Hyeres Olympic sailing week 23 - 29 April 2010
I cant wait to get out racing!
I write this from Palma, where I have been based since finishing the Miami Regatta at the end of January. I've spent nearly all my time on the water with training partner Mark Andrews and coach David (Sid) Howlett.
My main focus has been on my fitness but there have been some interesting developments arising from our kit testing. There was a good range of conditions meaning I was able to sail pretty much every day, this enabled us to really test different hulls, masts and sails. When it comes to sail design we use a lot of photographic work and a computer programme which works out things around sail shape, depths and twists in different conditions and circumstances. The Argentine sail designer Juan Garay was in Miami with us and since then he has been working back at home on fine-tuning the sails we are now testing.
I'm slowly getting my weight up for the Finn and although you could always be a bit heavier, I'm not too far off where I want to be now. My sailing fitness is also improving with all the time I'm spending in the boat. As we get closer to the Palma regatta in April my focus will switch more to racing again.
I did manage to get a few days back the UK, where I attended the launch of a new photographic exhibition celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Round the Island Race in London. The event brought together a host of past race winners and legends, I've done the Round the Island Race a few times but never won, it was great to speak to many past winners! Hearing their stories makes you realise what a hard race it is to win. It's a great showpiece for sailing and it is a unique opportunity for so many people to get involved. The bulk of people sailing aren't there to try to win anything they are just out enjoying the day and the fact the race is as long as it is (50 miles) gives them the chance to really settle down and properly work out how the boat is being sailed and the technicalities behind making the boat sail faster and more efficiently.
I also completed a photo shoot, it's always a strange experience to complete these shoots, especially when I'm hiking my Finn suspended in the middle of a studio with wind machines and camera's flashing. However, it was great fun and I'm looking forward to seeing the results.
Next up is the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma (2-9 April) which is part of the ISAF World Cup, I will have done a lot of training by then so I can't wait to get out racing.
ISAF Sailing World Cup Event: Princess Sofia Palma Regatta 02 - 09 April 2010
ISAF Sailing World Cup Event: Hyeres Olympic sailing week 23 - 29 April 2010
About Ben Ainslie CBE
Ben Ainslie is Britain's most successful Olympic sailor, in total he has won three gold medals and one silver.
Ben won his first Olympic medal at just 19 years old - silver in the Laser class at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Four years later, he achieved every athlete's dream of Olympic gold on Sydney Harbour. For the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, Ben switched to the larger Finn dinghy he again won Olympic gold. In August 2008 Ben proved his was still the best by winning his third straight Olympic gold medal.
Ben's sailing achievements are unprecedented not only is he a triple Olympic gold medallist, he is also a nine times World champion, eight times European Champion and three times ISAF world sailor of the year. Ben's next aspiration is to qualify for and bring back a historic fourth gold in the london 2012 olympics.
Ben is also the current 2010 ISAF World Match Racing Champion
I hadn't competed in the Miami OCR regatta for 15 years but it felt very familiar and it was great to get some more good training time on the water in a good climate with fellow Brits Giles Scott and Andrew Mills before racing got underway.
The Regatta began with two days of reasonably strong winds and flat water. Giles started very well with four straight wins, making the best use of his great speed in these conditions. Both Giles and Andrew were really going well on the downwind legs where their fitness really kicked in and helped them to make the most of the 'free pumping' rule that was in place. I struggled a little in these conditions but felt that with every race I was developing the technique and getting stronger
By day four conditions had lightened somewhat and this gave me an opportunity to start pulling back some point's. My case didn't end up being helped by the second yellow flag disqualification I picked up in race six for over-pumping and working the boat too hard (The free pumping rule having been removed as the wind strength was now under 10 knots). I hadn't had a yellow flag for three years so to get two in as many days was disappointing but in some ways perhaps I needed it to find out where the line was in terms of how far you can and can't push it.
Being penalised in a race, especially when you are disqualified, is always pretty tough psychologically because, as was the case in this instance, I suddenly went from being in a strong position overall to a precarious position. All you can do is get your head right and respond positively in the next race and so it was nice to go out and win the next race, finishing the day on a better note.
The Medal Race was a close affair. I won the race with Andrew Mills third and Giles Scott fifth. Giles fifth was just enough and he did a good job to hang on and win the Regatta overall.
Over the next two months I'm going to be spending a lot of time on and off in Palma before the Princess Sofia Regatta at the end of March just getting that all important time on the water and improving my sailing fitness even more. Much of the time will also be spent testing equipment. It was great to have Juan Garay out in Miami. Juan designs my sails and Miami gave us a great opportunity to discuss some changes we can make over the coming months and hopefully find an extra click of pace.
The smallest gains, are always the hardest part to eke out and it is those final few gains we will be working really hard on finding as we head into the most important regattas this summer.