12:00pm Thursday 14th June 2012
By Laura Kitching
A GOOD luck painting created by a Weymouth pensioner will be taking ‘pride of place’ in the home of triple Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie.
Ainslie was delighted when 83-year-old John Lee contacted him through the Dorset Echo to say he had created a work of art in his honour.
The oil painting, entitled Well Ahead, shows Ainslie training in Weymouth Bay for his fifth consecutive Games.
This summer the 35-year-old will attempt to make history as the world’s most successful Olympic sailor by adding a fourth gold to his collection, which also includes a silver Olympic medal.
The six-time Finn dinghy world champion has a lot of pressure and expectation resting on his shoulders and 83-year-old Mr Lee wanted Ainslie to know that thousands of people were rooting for him.
Mr Lee, of Wyke Regis, spent three weeks creating the masterpiece, which he presented to Ainslie at the Henri Lloyd marine clothing store in St Mary Street, Weymouth on Sunday.
Ainslie, of Lymington, who stays in the borough regularly to train, said: “I think it’s beautiful. I’m always amazed with artists, how they can capture a moment. Especially with the sea, it’s so difficult to get it right. This is the first painting I’ve had presented to me so I’m very honoured. It will take pride of place at home.”
Retired guesthouse owner Mr Lee told Ainslie: “You’re doing a good job. Please see this as a token, which I hope will bring you luck and good fortune as you sail towards victory. I hope you’ll always be ‘Well Ahead’.”
Mr Lee is now undertaking more action shots of the Team GB sailors and all of his work is displayed in the Swan pub in St Thomas Street. He added: “It’s great that Wetherspoons supports local artists.”
Ainslie surprised Mr Lee by presenting him with a signed T-shirt from his new Ainslie GBR 3 Collection.
Mr Lee’s wife April said: “John’s a very proud man today because Ben’s his hero.”
Dozens of shoppers gathered in the store to get posters and clothing signed by Ainslie.
Store manager Paul Ornes said: “All the people coming in have really enjoyed the event.
“We’ve had a lot of young lads in who are really keen on their Sailing. It’s amazing to have a world-class athlete in the store, not an every day kind of event.
“Ben’s a really nice guy, really good with people. It’s something we’ll remember for a long time.”
Jane Buckle, Olympic liaison officer for Weymouth Sailing Club, attended to gather signed flags and a poster for the club.
She said: “I also got one for me. Ben is inspirational because of his determination to succeed and he’s a lovely person. It was absolutely fabulous to watch him race at the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta on Saturday, we’re really proud he got a silver. I'll be supporting him through the Games and waving this flag.”
Finlay Morrison, aged nine, of Dorchester said: “I sail Picos and normal sailing boats. I’ve seen Ben Ainslie on television and live down at the sailing academy. It’s really cool to meet him. I’m going to put my signed posted in my room probably and wear my signed hat every day.”
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