Sir Ben Ainslie: Olympic gold medallist answers your questions

Ben Ainslie
Ben Ainslie

Sir Ben Ainslie added another notable achievement to his legendary sailing career by helping Oracle Team USA fight back from 8-1 down to win the America's Cup last month.

The victory over Team New Zealand continued Ainslie's success on water.

He is the most decorated Olympic sailor with medals in five consecutive games, including a fourth gold at London 2012.

Ainslie, 36, came ashore this week to answer questions posed by contributors to BBC Sport.

Ben Ainslie Q&A

Which provides the sterner test, your competitors or the sea? Edward Jones ‏@nejones_

That is a very good question. It is both. Sailing is about making the least mistakes and dealing with conditions and your competitors. It is a little bit like golf in that respect. You never sail a perfect race like you never play a perfect game of golf and normally the people who come out on top make the least mistakes.

I would say sailing is probably more to do with dealing with the conditions as a competitor and secondly dealing with the competition. It can be very tactical, especially as the competition comes to the end of the event as you saw in the Olympics last year.

You start realising who your main competition are towards the end of the event and you do focus on them more and at that point the racing is much more tactical. One of the dangers is you get too focused on one individual or one team and you forget about the conditions and what is happening outside the boat, with the wind and the water. You make a mistake and a rival sails past you.

People often describe sailing as like chess on water because of the tactics of it. There is a lot of strategy involved and you have to be thinking the whole time about what the next move is.

Was New Zealand's near-capsize in race eight the most identifiable moment when momentum of the America's Cup flipped to USA and you went on to win? De'Kurt La'Liedtke ‏@Keeerrrttt1

Definitely. That race was the first time we had shown some good upwind speed and previously that is where we had been weaker than the Kiwis and we actually surprised them a little bit. I don't know if that is necessarily why they had a bad tack and nearly capsized but we got back into them and won that race and for all of us on that boat it was a turning point.

You've done match racing at every level, how about a Volvo around the world campaign? Henry Nicholson-Cole ‏@Henry_NC

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Team USA's shock America's Cup win

I love the Volvo race. My dad competed in the first ever around the world race, which back then was called the Whitbread Around the World Race, back in 1973. So growing up as a youngster I had all the stories around that, which was very inspiring.

I have done quite a lot of offshore racing but I have not had the opportunity to try the Volvo - maybe it is something I can do in the future. The Olympics and the America's Cup have been my focus up until now in my career so the Volvo is something I have not had time to have a crack at.

Have you ever thought of moving into the International Moths since seeing the hydro-foiling at the America's Cup? Alex Sharp ‏@SPAM_Official

That is a very good point because certainly with the America's Cup with the foiling, when the boats are lifting up on the foils, is what moth sailing is all about. Those guys are leading the way in that style of sailing so in terms of training or preparation for the bigger America's Cup boats the moth is a very good tool. I can imagine I will be doing a lot of moth sailing in the coming years.

The moths are so much fun to sail. It is like windsurfing, you are flying around at 40 miles an hour in a tiny little craft which is up on foils. They are very dynamic, very fast, a lot of fun. It is a totally different style of racing to what you see in, for example, the finn boat which I sailed in the Olympics. It is a new development of sailing and something that is a great training tool for the future.

Since you support Chelsea, what do you think of their prospect this season with the return of the Special One? Sivan John ‏@SivanJohn

I think their prospects are good. I am a big Jose Mourinho fan. It sounds like he has got himself into a little bit of trouble in the last week but I think that is all part of his game. I hope this time he can stay for a while and really build up a strong team again. His man-management is very good.

The players you would want to have around you respond very well to him and have a lot of respect for him - guys like Frank Lampard for example. They have a tremendous working relationship and I think that is what you need as a manager, you need those key players around you that you can trust and they are going to help you build the squad.

Why did you take up sailing? Jammy ‏@jammy_jnr

My parents were keen on sailing. They didn't really race apart from that first Whitbread and from then on they sailed socially. They got my sister and me into it from a young age messing about on boats socially.

I didn't really start racing until I was eight at my local sailing club Restronguet in Cornwall. I went one step at a time, I just enjoyed being on the water. Then a guy called Dr Phil Slater, whose kids were a similar age, started teaching us all to race and I took it from there.

Why do you always have a Chinese meal before racing? Lucas Ramsey ‏@lucasramsey_

That is something I haven't done so much in recent years but when I was younger I was really into having a Chinese meal. It something I did with my parents when I was a youngster and we thought it was a lucky thing having a Chinese meal before an event started and it was a nice thing to do socially so we stuck with it for quite a number of years. My favourite dish is definitely spare ribs.

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Fourth sailing gold for Ainslie

Could you be tempted to compete in the Rio Olympics and what would it take? Phil Crawley @PhilCrawley

I don't think so. I made that call last year to retire from Olympic sailing. London 2012 was such an amazing experience and I don't think you will ever top that in terms of Olympics and racing on home water.

Also, I have other ambitions in racing with the America's Cup and perhaps some other races. I still think it is the right call. I am happy with that and of course I will support the next Olympic team 100%. Anything I can do to help I would love to.

Other than your own achievement, what part of London 2012 did you most enjoy? Phil: @philclements

The closing ceremony. It was a pretty stressful event for anyone competing at home. It was amazing the difference from competing in an Olympics away from home, where you train and then go into a little bubble and you just get on with it.

Competing at home, the distractions were so much more it made it pretty difficult to prepare and stay focused and not get pulled from pillar to post. I loved watching other competitions.

Halfway through my competition I wasn't doing particularly well at that point and I remember watching Helen Glover and Heather Stanning winning in the rowing doubles and then Bradley Wiggins smashing the time trial and that was really inspiring to see those results.

That had helped a lot of us who were still competing to get motivated and be part of that winning team. London 2012 was probably the most pressurised situation I have been in.

There were the external pressures because we were racing at home. Then internally, the chance to win a medal at home was huge. A fifth medal would have meant quite a lot in the history of sailing as well, so that was a huge amount of internal pressure to achieve that goal. It was a stressful period.

Who was your most inspirational coach? And Why? Matt @MDGelly10

I have had some fantastic coaches over the years. I mentioned Phil Slater at a young age who made a huge difference. A guy called Jim Saltonstall, again when I was a youngster he was a huge character. He was a national coach.

He helped a lot of the top sailors you have seen come through the Olympics. Iain Percy, Nick Rodgers, Paul Robertson, Shirley Robertson - all these guys were coached by Jim and he was a huge inspiration to our generation of sailors. Finally David Howlett who was my coach for two Olympics and this last one in London. A fantastic guy and certainly I wouldn't have achieved the last Olympics without his support.

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