Bembridge RNLI’s volunteer crew welcomed sailing royalty on board their lifeboat on Sunday, 23 July, when they took Olympian and RNLI ambassador Sir Ben Ainslie, along with Land Rover BAR sailing team manager, Jono Macbeth, to a special event to meet fans and followers.
The event followed Sir Ben’s participation in the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda where his British team, Land Rover BAR, reached the Louis Vuitton Qualifier Semi Final Play-offs, but were later beaten by Emirates New Zealand, who went on to win the world-famous trophy.
Sir Ben has vowed the British team will continue their dream of bringing the cup home to British waters and will compete in the 36th America’s Cup, which is expected to be held early 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Both Sir Ben and Jono competed – and won – together with Oracle Team USA in the 34th America’s Cup back in 2013, when Sir Ben was brought in as tactician, playing a key role in the team’s victory.
Sir Ben, team principal and skipper of Land Rover BAR, and three times America’s Cup winner, Jono, were both taken by the Bembridge all-weather relief lifeboat Frank and Anne Wilkinson from Bembridge RNLI Lifeboat Station to Sea View Yacht Club.
There they met young sailors from across the island, hosted a Q&A session and later joined the sailors on the water for a race.
A lifeboat spokesman said the visit by Sir Ben Ainslie was a real honour for islanders, as he is widely recognised as an inspiration to young people.
Sir Ben is the most successful sailor in Olympic history, having won medals at five consecutive Olympics from 1996 onwards, including gold at the four Games held between 2000 and 2012.
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Adele Carritt, chair of Sea View RNLI fundraising branch, said: ‘It was hugely exciting for everyone here. As islanders we know only too well Ben’s and Jono’s amazing achievements and they are an inspiration to other sailors who aspire to emulate their successes.
‘The fact they chose to come to the Sea View Yacht Club by lifeboat is wonderful – Ben is an ambassador for the RNLI and we extremely are proud of them both.’
John Keyworth, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Bembridge RNLI Lifeboat Station said: ‘We were delighted to welcome aboard Sir Ben Ainslie and Jono Macbeth. With our volunteers’ world class training, and their many hours of sailing, there was certainly a lot to talk about!’