GOLD medal winning Olympic sailors Sir Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy launched the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre today exactly a year to the day of his death.
Simpson, who lived in Sherborne, died on May 9, 2013, aged 36, in a tragic training accident as he was preparing for the America’s Cup in San Francisco.
The two athletes were both good friends of Simpson and launched the centre, which was set up by the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation in his memory at the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy.
Sir Ben and Iain, who are both ambassadors of the foundation, delivered a heartfelt speech and presentation in front of a packed audience at the academy before being joined by Simpson’s two children Freddie and Hamish to cut the ribbon and mark the official opening of the centre.
See a video of the launch here
Iain was Simpson’s sailing partner when the duo won a gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics, which they won in the waters off Weymouth and Portland.
He said: “It took us a long time to decide whether it was right to open the centre today, but it is another opportunity to celebrate everything that Andrew was about.
“He loved helping and educating kids and bringing them into the sport of sailing and the fact we can carry that on in his name is a great tribute for him.
“It is very appropriate we base the foundation at the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy.
“We spent many a day here and every time I drive here I always think of the sessions we used to have on the water, and it’s lovely to base it here in his home county of Dorset.”
The aim of the foundation is to honour the memory of Simpson by encouraging young people to take up the sport and to compete in events.
Sir Ben said: “It was very poignant to launch it today, for obvious reasons.
“It is nice to launch the foundation in his home county and at this base, we all grew up here sailing and we all had great memories here, including the Olympics.
“We are very excited about the launch.
“The foundation is all about getting more kids out on the water, which Andrew was so passionate about, and not just putting them on the water but giving them the right mentoring to help them succeed.
“We are hoping the foundation will continue to grow, with 3,500 children set to benefit this year.
“We really wish he was still here with us, but this is a fitting legacy for him.”
Peter Allam, the chief executive of Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy, said: “It has been a fantastic event.
“Andrew would have been chuffed to bits.”