Sports Personality contender: Sir Ben Ainslie - Sailing

Sports Personality 2013: Sir Ben Ainslie

During the countdown to the 60th BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on Sunday 15 December, we will be looking at each of the 10 shortlisted contenders.

Victory in the America's Cup was the latest triumph in a record-breaking career for Sir Ben Ainslie - the most successful Olympic sailor of all-time.

With his team on the brink of a crushing defeat - 8-1 down in the first-to-nine series - the 36-year-old Briton helped secure one of the most remarkable comebacks in sporting history.

Ainslie was promoted from the training crew to the role as tactician as his Oracle Team USA sought to fight back against Team New Zealand in the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco.

And fight back they did, as a combination of Ainslie and a raft of changes to their radical AC72 catamaran led to an unlikely 9-8 victory in September.

"The Americans were beaten until Ben joined the boat," said Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to perform a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe.

"There's no question it was Ben's arrival that changed the chemistry completely."

As the win made headlines around the world, the Briton admitted to thinking about his friend Andrew Simpson, who died in the same San Francisco harbour in May during a training session.

Sir Ben Ainslie on emotional 2013

"I had Andrew in my mind a lot, certainly when I crossed the line," said Ainslie. "He would have loved it. It was a very special moment."

Born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, Ainslie's family moved to Restronguet, Cornwall, and sailing became part of his childhood.

He became Laser Radial world champion at the age of 16, and he was an Olympic medallist three years later at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

After silver at his first Games, he won consecutive golds at the next four.

Switching from the Laser discipline to Finn class meant Ainslie had to bulk up if he wanted to be first class at that too, increasing his body weight by 15kg.

His third gold in Beijing came despite falling ill days before his Olympic defence.

And last year's victory showed Ainslie's focus and determination in full effect.

When he felt two rivals had teamed up against him, forcing him to do a penalty turn, he vowed to make them pay.

"They've made a big mistake. They've made me angry and you don't want to make me angry," he said.

He went on to secure his fourth Games title before a home crowd, and was Team GB's flag-bearer for the London 2012 closing ceremony.

The next challenge for Ainslie, who was knighted in January 2013, is trying to get a British team to win sailing's big duel.

"Now it is time to look ahead to my next challenge - the ultimate challenge - to bring the America's Cup back to British waters for the first time in something like 165 years," he said.

Top Stories