With 42 days to go until the 2012 London Olympic Games, the sailors of the British Olympic and Paralympic teams received a send-off to remember at the sixth quadrennial Sail for Gold Ball last night.
More than 850 guests showed their support to the 22 Olympic and Paralympic team sailors who will compete in Weymouth and Portland this summer and Britain’s up-and-coming Olympic stars of tomorrow by packing out the London Hilton on Park Lane.
In the presence of HRH The Princess Royal, President of the RYA, the guests, including some of the biggest names in sailing from the past and present as well as many from the worlds of commerce, politics, the arts and media, were treated to a feast of entertainment as the Ball once again raised significant funds to help support the development of World Class sailing in Britain.
Introduced by the BBC team for the 2012 sailing events, including double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson and Olympic silver medallist Mark Covell, the fundraising effort offered a fantastic array of raffle prizes while the Sail for Gold auction, with master auctioneer Nick Bonham, was a massive success. Once again reputed sports artist Brian West’s exclusive Sailing for Gold painting attracted many bids, as did the pieces which were hand painted and signed by past and present Olympians. However the highlight of the auction was when Carphone Warehouse boss Charles Dunstone bought a Laser signed by the Olympic team for £10,000 (the third time he has bought a Laser at this pre-Olympic ball) and promptly put it up for re-auction when it was purchased by Sir Keith Mills for....£9,000!
Meanwhile, guests were also greeted with a good luck message from double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker who is currently competing in the Volvo Ocean Race.
Speaking on behalf of the sailors, triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie thanked everyone for attending and highlighted the importance of the financial backing to ensure that British sailors continue to top international podiums for many years to come.
For the fourth consecutive time, Peter Harrison CBE was the Principal Sponsor of the 2012 Sail for Gold Ball.
Stephen Park, RYA Olympic Manager, commented: “Tonight was very important as it’s one of the most important social occasions of the Olympiad, but the real reason is of course to send our Olympians and Paralympians off with a bang!
“It’s easy to think these days that with Lottery funding and with the significant corporate programme that raising private funds as we are tonight would not be important, but it actually all makes a huge difference as there are a number of areas within the programme that are limited so that’s really where the money that comes in tonight makes those small medal winning differences.
Park concluded: “Everyone that was here tonight had a great time, people have really felt that they have had an insight into the British sailing team and gone away feeling part of our extended family and proud to be supporting the sailors on their journey to London 2012.”
Over 4,500 guests have attended the previous Sail for Gold Balls, which have been held in each Olympic year since 1992.