GBR star Ainslie retires from Olympic sailing

Associated Press Modified: November 27, 2012 at 2:46 am •  Published: November 27, 2012

His spot in Olympic sailing history secure, Ben Ainslie will now try to become the first Englishman to hoist the America's Cup in victory.

That would be one silver trophy he'd be eager to accept.

The four-time gold medalist announced his retirement from Olympic sailing early Tuesday, saying it was time to move on to the challenge of trying to end Britain's long drought in the competition for the oldest trophy in international sports, the America's Cup.

Ainslie's decision wasn't a surprise. While he said he wanted to take some time after winning the gold medal in the Finn class at the London Olympics, he's already sailed in two America's Cup World Series regattas with his Ben Ainslie Racing team, finishing second in one of them.

The 35-year-old Ainslie became the most successful Olympic sailor ever when he won his fourth straight gold medal at Weymouth in August. He also won a silver medal at Atlanta in 1996 in his first Olympics.

"When I look back there are so many special memories; from that first medal in Atlanta 16 years ago to carrying the flag at the closing ceremony in London 2012," Ainslie said in a statement. "London was an incredibly special Olympics, competing on home waters and in front of a home crowd, I don't think anything will be able to top that experience. But you have to move forward and it is time to move onto the next challenge in my career."

Ainslie was so successful as an Olympian that he was called Britain's greatest sailor since Admiral Lord Nelson, who was killed while leading his fleet to victory over the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar. A statue of Nelson rises high above London's Trafalgar Square.

Ainslie, known for an intense focus and work ethic, felt that comparison was hype.

"I didn't rescue the nation from the depths of Napoleon Bonaparte," Ainslie said after winning his final Olympic gold. "You do the best you can do in your style of racing."

Ainslie was 19 when he took silver in the 1996 Olympics in a bitter loss to Brazil's Robert Scheidt in the Laser class. Scheidt induced Ainslie into a penalty at the start of the final race and then sailed to gold.

Continue reading this story on the...