Ben Ainslie, the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time, has capped off his record-breaking 2012 with a Knighthood in the New Year Honours list.
‘Sir Ben’ claimed his fourth straight Olympic gold – and fifth Olympic medal in total – on the waters of Weymouth and Portland this summer, with this most prestigious honour now coming as fitting curtain call to his lucrative Olympic sailing career, which he called time on last month in order to focus on his America’s Cup ambitions.
“This is an incredible honour,” the 35-year-old Ainslie commented. “When I set out Olympic sailing 20 years ago, I never would have dreamt this would happen. I couldn't have achieved this honour without the support of all the people who have helped me throughout my career and so I hope they can also take some pride in this moment.”
British Sailing has more cause for celebration, with honours also going to Paralympic gold medallist Helena Lucas, and to Ainslie’s coach David Howlett, who were both named as Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
Lucas, 37, in September became the first Paralympic gold medallist for sailing since it became a full Paralympic programme sport in 2000, and notably did so as the only female among an otherwise all-male fleet in the 2.4mR class.
“It's a real honour and a fantastic end to an amazing year!” said Lucas. “It was totally unexpected as there have been so many outstanding sporting achievements this year!”
David ‘Sid’ Howlett, 61, coached Ben Ainslie to his record-breaking fourth Olympic gold and sixth Finn World Championship title this summer, while his knowledge and experience has also contributed to a clutch of British Olympic sailing medals since 1988.
Outside of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, there was also recognition for Malcolm Torry, who was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to sailing and to people with disabilities for his work through Carsington Sailability in Derbyshire.
Sarah Treseder, CEO of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) said: “We are all absolutely thrilled for sailing’s award recipients, who have all made major contributions either to the RYA community, or the sport of sailing and its successes on the world stage across so many years.
“They are such great ambassadors for our sport, and we’re delighted and so proud that their hard work and achievements have been recognised after the sporting success story that 2012 has been for the country.”
Sir Keith Mills was awarded the Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire for services to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.