Ben Ainslie's medal hopes destroyed
Ben Ainslie’s campaign for a sixth Finn World Championship title came to an end today after he was disqualified for both of the day’s two races after an incident with a media boat driver on his course (read more about this here).
Ainslie’s progress was impeded by the boat on the final downwind leg of race nine of the World Championship series in Perth, and after the race finish he boarded the media boat to voice his unhappiness at the boat driver’s actions.
A jury hearing late on Saturday night found fault from both parties, but disqualified the Skandia Team GBR sailor from both of the day’s races for gross misconduct. With the disqualifications not able to be discarded from his race series, Ainslie will end the regatta in 11th and will not feature in the final medal race on Sunday.
Stephen Park, RYA Olympic Manager commented: "Clearly this is a disappointing position for Ben and of course for the team. It’s particularly disappointing bearing in mind that all parties that spoke at the hearing all effectively said exactly the same thing. Everyone accepted that there was fault on both the side of the television production crew and indeed on Ben’s side. Unfortunately because of the situation we were in, with the sport trying to move to better television images to appeal to that market, sometimes there’s a learning process to go through from a television perspective and sometimes there are implications and this is an example of one of those.
"Both parties, the television side and Ben have both apologised to each other and as far they’re concerned we’re ready just to go back out and get on with our respective jobs tomorrow.
"It’s particularly disappointing that this Championship has effectively been determined in this way in the jury room rather than between sailors on the water.
"There have been various rumours in the media about Ben having ‘assaulted’ the driver of the boat. As far as we’re concerned there wasn’t an assault which took place, and as far as the driver was concerned that was part of his statement to the jury so we’re pretty keen to put that to bed and recognised that that’s a bit of over exaggeration and sensationalism.
"While we accept the penalty from the jury and do not condone Ben’s behaviour, I would hope, on the basis of the jury’s facts found, that it is recognised that lessons need to be learned both from the side of the International Sailing Federation as organising authority as well as the sailors. At the moment the sport seems to be fumbling its way into trying to make the sport more appealing for television but surely there is a better way than trialling new race formats, rule regulations and specifically in this case media initiatives than trialling them at the World Championship which is arguably the most important event in the Olympic cycle outside of the Games themselves."
Ben Ainslie added: "I overreacted to what I thought was a situation where I felt my performance was being severely hindered. I’m very thankful that everyone involved has taken it how it was – as something which was blown out of proportion in terms of what actually happened. We’ve all apologised to each other and are looking forward to moving on.
"I’m obviously really disappointed with the decision. Unfortunately it’s part and parcel of the sport trying to develop its area within TV and in a number of instances this week that line has been crossed and that’s something which everyone has to accept is a development.
"I’m very sorry that the jury decided to react the way they did over something which really wasn’t as big as it was blown up to be. It’s very disappointing that the Championship has been decided this way. I’ve worked extremely hard over the last six weeks and have been training incredibly hard to get to this position in a venue which has been difficult for me with my size against the bigger sailors. I feel like I’ve actually sailed one of the best regattas of my life so to be in this situation now is very disappointing but I certainly hope now that it’s one of the British boats on top of the podium if it can’t be me."