By Duncan Mackay

Ben Ainslie receiving London 2012 medal August 5 2012November 27 - Britain's Ben Ainslie has announced that his Olympic sailing career is over after ruling out competing at Rio 2016 to concentrate on the Americas Cup. 

Ainslie rewrote the record books at Weymouth and Portland during London 2012 when he won his fourth consecutive gold medal which, added to the silver he had won on his Games debut at Atlanta in 1996, made him the first competitor in the sport to win a medal in five successive Games and officially the greatest sailor in Olympic history. 

Ainslie was victorious in the Finn class at the London Olympics for the third consecutive time having won at Athens in 2004 and Beijing 2008, following silver in the laser in Atlanta and gold at Sydney 2000. 

"When I look back there are so many special memories; from that first medal in Atlanta 16 years ago to carrying the [Team GB] flag at the Closing Ceremony in London 2012," he said.

"London was an incredibly special Olympics, competing on home waters and in front of a home crowd, I don't think anything will be able to top that experience.

"But you have to move forwards and it is time to move onto the next challenge in my career."

Ainslie has taken the bold move to setup a team to challenge for the 35th America's Cup, an event conceived in Britain in 1851 but which has never been won by a British team.

The team has taken the first steps on this road with J.P.Morgan, the title sponsor of the Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) AC45 team, who are competing in the America's Cup World Series (ACWS) in 2012-2013.

Ben Ainslie celebrates winning London 2012 August 5 2012Ben Ainslie celebrates winning his fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal at Weymouth and Portland

"The America's Cup has always been a goal for me," said Ainslie.

"With the new format of the America's Cup World Series and the increased commericalistaion of the event, I feel confident that we can continue to build towards creating a commercially viable team, with the ultimate goal of challenging for the 35th America's Cup.

"Stepping away from the Olympics was not an easy decision to make and I wanted to take some time after London to think about the future and what the next challenge would be.

"I've had an amazing Olympic sailing career and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the countless number of people who have been involved in my sailing career to date.

"Their support enabled me to achieve my dreams and I could not have done it without them."

John Derbyshire, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Performance Director, was not surprised by the decision.

"Ben has always made it clear that his two career goals have been to win Olympic gold, and to win the America's Cup," he said.  

"With four Olympic golds and a silver across five Games, and now the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, he has nothing left to prove in Olympic terms and there can be no question that he's more than achieved his first goal. 

"It's therefore entirely understandable that he should now want to turn his attentions to the second, and hopefully lead a British team to win the oldest trophy in sport for the very first time.

"The word 'legend' is often over-used in sport, but Ben really is one - a determined yet unassuming, modest, often under-recognised legend in this nation's sporting history. 

"He has been a talismanic figure in the RYA's Olympic programme for over 16 years, through his successes inspiring new waves of sailors to get involved in the sport, and passing on his tireless work ethic and campaign skills to other young talents who will look to follow in his footsteps and take on the challenge of keeping GBR a leading light in Olympic sailing in the years to come."

Read Mike Rowbottom's tribute to Ainslie by clicking here

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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