OLYMPIC sailing hero Sir Ben Ainslie fired up fundraisers before they set off on a charity run in memory of his friend.
Sir Ben, the most successful sailor in Olympic history, was at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy to start a 1k run for children and adults in aid of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foun-dation.
The foundation was set up in memory of double Olympic medallist Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson, who died in a sailing accident in May, 2013.
Sir Ben, who last won Olympic gold in the waters off Weymouth and Portland two years ago, also took the opportunity to promote Bart’s Bash, the upcoming fundraiser and Guinness World Record attempt for the largest sailing race on Sunday, September 21. The race will be hosted by sailing clubs all over the world.
During his visit to the academy yesterday, Sir Ben also met young competitors taking part in the 2014 Volvo Gill Optimist British National and Open Championships at the WPNSA.
He said: “It’s quite emotional being here and thinking about when me and Bart first met here when we were kids, it must have been about 25 years ago.
“Back then this academy didn’t exist – it was the naval base, and we were at the Weymouth sailing club in the town, and that was the first time we met and was the start of a lifelong friendship that was very special. Andrew loved sailing and helping youngsters so he would be so proud to see everyone here today.”
The Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation aims to assist young sailors coming up in the sport, from all backgrounds and areas of sailing and has already gained a lot of support.
Sir Ben said: “It’s been phenomenal really, the support that we’ve had, and it says a lot about how much Andrew was respected and loved that so many people have supported us to get this far.
“It’s been a huge effort from all of the volunteers and everyone involved.”
So far more than 1,800 sailors have signed up online from 569 clubs in 51 countries across the globe to take part in Bart’s Bash.
Organising Bart’s Bash in Weymouth and Portland is Tim Anderton, from the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre based at the WPNSA. He said: “All of the sailing clubs in the area are taking part and then there’s going to be a big prize giving here in the afternoon.
“Anyone can take part in the race even people who have never sailed before. If they raise the sponsorship money then we will take them out with an instructor.”