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By Oli Dickson Jefford
Sir Ben Ainslie wants to combine a winning feeling in Plymouth with raising awareness of sailing’s efforts to combat climate change as he prepares for a return to racing in British waters.
Four-time Olympic champion Ainslie, 45, will be part of the Great Britain team that races in the SailGP event in Plymouth from July 30-31st.
The last time he raced in Britain was the Portsmouth America’s Cup events in 2015 and 2016, both of which were won by his all-British Land Rover BAR team.
Now, with Ainslie back in the driving seat for the Plymouth SailGP event the Great Britain SailGP Team will be looking to build on their second and third place finishes in Bermuda and Chicago in front of the home crowd.
Having also won Olympic gold in London 2012, he is revelling in the opportunity to be back competing in front of a home crowd.
He said: “We all love competing but competing in front of your home crowd is extra special and I think back to London 2012.
“We had the sailing down in Weymouth and Portland for the Olympics, and I think we had close to 30,000 people on the shoreline watching those final medal races.
“That was a huge, huge buzz, as a sportsperson to get that opportunity. It doesn’t happen that often so I’m really looking forward to it.
“I can’t wait to get sailing in Plymouth, in front of a home crowd. The last time I had the opportunity was in 2016 and it is always extra special to be in front of the home crowd and get inspired by that.
“The idea is that we also inspire those fans to get into the sport, particularly the youngsters, and for them to be excited about the sport of sailing and get more involved.”
While excited about a return to competing on home waters, Ainslie’s main goal is to encourage younger people interested in the sport to look at how they can challenge global warming.
SailGP is at the forefront of climate change within the sporting community, last year launching the Impact League - which ranks the participating teams’ efforts in boosting sustainability.
The Great Britain team is partnered with ‘Protect Our Future’, a project that aims to improve education on climate change, and Ainslie believes it is vital that the message is shared.
He added: “We have a huge opportunity with SailGP and with our Great Britain team with the ‘Protect Our Future’ messaging.
“That’s all about trying to better educate younger people about the issues of climate change and the environment, and to better upskill them to cope with that, and hopefully inspire the next generation of problem solvers that will help develop a society to overcome this challenge.
“That’s really the goal, what we’re racing for. We’re racing for change. We’re really excited about the prospect.
“From my own personal perspective, when you look about what changes can be made to really have an impact on climate change, it's hard. As an individual, you think: ‘is it really going to make a difference if I do anything here?’
“But when you see the Impact League as a league and a group of teams within the league, the efficiencies we’ve made, that starts having a massive meaningful impact.
“If we can encourage more people to make those changes in their everyday lives, that collectively as a global population is the kind of change, we need to try and inspire.”