Budleigh sailor Ben Cornish leaves Team GB to compete in America's Cup
PUBLISHED: 16:34 04 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:34 04 March 2019
Having been a member of team GB as a Finn sailor Budleigh Salterton's Ben Cornish tells KATE WILLIAMS why his Olympic dreams have recently sunk, but he thanks Devon for his amazing career as he sets his sights on a world race for the future
Representing Great Britain at any sport is not something that just happens. It takes gusto, grit and determination - things which sailor Ben Cornish has in droves.
Being a member of team GB in the Finn class - a single-handed dinghy - all Ben’s ambitions were focused on an Olympic medal.
But, despite all the effort and training he had put in, the tide turned for Ben’s career at the end of 2018 when the Finn class lost its Olympic status for Paris 2024.
With the unexpected direction change, Ben still thanks Devon and its sailing heroes for inspiring him in his career and his passion for the sport.
Growing up in Budleigh Salterton, Ben’s introduction to sailing was from his parents who are members of the Exe Sailing Club. Playing on the water and the surrounding waterfront was where Ben spent the majority of his childhood.
He recalls: “My earliest memory of sailing was along Exmouth seafront with a family friend at the age of seven. I hated every second of it and made such a fuss I got put onto the shore at Orcombe Point and told to walk back. Thankfully, I gave it another shot and then got involved with the junior programmes and started to fall in love with sailing.
“Having learnt to sail on the River Exe and lived all my life in neighbouring Budleigh Salterton, I feel like I owe a lot to the quality of the local area for water sports and also the history of successful sailors in the local area.
“As a youngster at the sailing club I grew up watching the likes of Joe Glanfield, Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes all in pursuit of Olympic success. Watching them on this journey and having such a close connection to them all inspired me to want to do the same.
“I vividly remember a welcome home party where all three spoke about their experience and Joe (two times silver medallist) came to show us his medal. I was completely in awe and knew from a very young age what direction I wanted to focus my energy.
“I certainly owe a huge amount to these guys who, without knowing it, gave inspiration to the generation behind them.
“Learning to sail on the River Exe taught me valuable lessons about sailing. The estuary is so complex with strong tidal features. I would join in with evening club races and loved learning from the local legends who knew exactly how to exploit the fastest way around the sand bars.”
At 18, Ben became a member of the British Sailing Team and was part of the development programme, entering the team at the lowest rank and eager to improve and chase down his peers.
Previously racing in the Laser class, a much smaller boat than the Finn, Ben had to go through a physical change, increasing his weight, with relentless gym programmes and a substantial increase in his diet. He got himself up to the racing weight for the boat in just over 12 months, moving in to the Finn class in 2014.
Ben says: “I reached a career peak to become ranked number one in the world, after winning bronze at the European Championships and gold at the Sailing World Cup Final in Santander.”
Ben’s sole objective was gaining selection to the 2020 Olympics but those dreams were dashed at the end of last year.
Ben explains: “Sad news at the end of 2018 saw the Finn class lose its Olympic status after the next Olympic Games. I made the decision to leave my position in the British Sailing Team to join INEOS Team UK, Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup team, with the focus on winning the oldest trophy in sport.
“The opportunity to join a team with so many legends of the sport and with many new skills to acquire is really exciting.
“Further down the line, I would love to call sailing my career for many years to come. The fantastic thing about this sport is the different avenues you can explore as a professional. The America’s Cup is a huge network in itself. I would love to take part in a race around the world such as the Volvo Ocean race one day.
“It gives me great pleasure to see youngsters still keen to get out and enjoy the water on the Exe Estuary.
I am a true believer that you should stick at what you enjoy and I certainly look back now and feel very fortunate that I can still be doing what I love each day.”
INEOS TEAM UK
Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe formed Ineos Team UK by making the biggest ever British investment in the America’s Cup in an unprecedented effort to bring the trophy back to Britain for the first time since the competition was established in 1851.
Ineos Team UK has teamed up with Sir Ben Ainslie who will lead the design and build boat programme and skipper the racing yacht.
On 2 July 2018 the team, representing Royal Yacht Squadron Racing, officially announced its intention to compete in the 36th challenge of the America’s Cup in 2021. Ineos is a privately-owned UK multi-national chemicals company.