British sailors Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes end their 12-year campaign

Olympians Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes have called time on
their 12-year 49er partnership and their bid for a third Olympic Games
medal attempt at Rio 2016.

The decision follows discussions with the RYA Olympic Manager and the
Olympic Steering Group and an 11th place finish at the recent 49er World
Championship in Marseille, which reinforced the duo’s belief that their
partnership had reached its peak.

Now both sailors, who in the past have achieved World and European Championship titles and represented Team GB at two Olympic Games, will be exploring new sailing opportunities outside of the Olympic classes.

Rhodes, 32, said: ‘We’ve had a great run over many years but I think the result at the
recent Worlds just cemented our thinking that our partnership had
probably run its course.

‘The obvious high point for us was in 2007 – the year as a whole. I
think we won pretty much every event we entered including the Worlds so
that was a real peak.

‘There’s nothing better than when things are going
well and you’re doing that with your best mate. As Bart [Simpson] and
Iain [Percy] always used to say, it’s a pretty cool feeling and you
think yourself pretty lucky.

‘While we never achieved our ultimate goal of winning an Olympic medal, I
think we gave it a pretty good go and I feel pretty proud of what we
managed to achieve.’

Time to move on

The 34-year-old Morrison added: ‘Ben and I have sailed together for so
long and have been successful almost across generations of 49er sailors
managing to stay on top of our game, so we’ve shown pretty good
adaptability and good teamship skills.

‘After the Worlds this year we had to look each other in the eye and
look at ourselves in the mirror and say for whatever reason we’ve

‘As hard as that is to say, equally you’ve got to look back
and say that we were the best in the world for a while, and not many
people get to say that.

‘We’ve had a really good career as a team but it’s time to move on and try exploring different avenues.’

Future plans

The Exmouth-based sailors are both keen to explore sailing campaigns
outside of the Olympic Classes, and have been excited by the move in
professional sailing towards high performance boats.  

Rhodes added: ‘I’d love to keep sailing as much as possible and with the experience of
high-level campaigning that I have, I feel I’ve a lot to offer a
high-performance sailing team, whether that be in Extreme 40s or Melges
boats or whatever it is.

‘I’d be pretty keen to give everything a go!’

Morrison added: ‘There are other guys from our team like Ben Ainslie,
Iain Percy, Chris Draper who’ve gone on to the America’s Cup.

‘It’s an
exciting time for the sport of sailing with high performance boats
becoming much more the benchmark of sailing, and that exactly suits our
background and where we have come from in our sailing.’

While the soon-to-be first-time father Rhodes is hanging up his 49er
trapeze harness for good and viewing professional life entirely outside
of Olympic campaigning, Morrison admits that he would consider a return
to the 49er and a further shot at Olympic gold in Rio, if the
circumstances were right and the right crew were to come along.

Years of sacrifice

RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park paid tribute to their years of
application and sacrifice chasing their Olympic dream, saying: ‘Stevie
and Ben have been fantastic competitors at the front of the world 49er
fleet for some years now.

‘They have delivered great performances for
Great Britain over the years, but ultimately didn’t manage to deliver
their best performances at the Olympic Games.

‘I am sure they will go on to deliver many more top performances in
other forms of the sport, and wish them well for the future.’

Pictures: Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes. Credit: British Sailing Team. The 49er duo in action. Credit onEdition