America's Cup 2021: 15 things you need to know about INEOS Team UK skipper Sir Ben Ainslie

He's been described as England's best sailor since Sir Francis Drake (played bowls, beat the Spanish Armada) and over the next month, Sir Ben Ainslie can add to his already impressive sailing CV.

Ainslie's laid-back demeanour off the water gives way to a burning competitive streak once he leaves shore, but before he can lift the America's Cup off New Zealand, he must first overcome a former ally with whom he already shares unique history in the regatta.

How much do you know about the man known as 'Big Ben'?

  • Born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, an area devastated by the Norman conquest of 1070 and famous for its silk manufacture, which spawned band members of Joy Division and New Order.
  • Christened Charles Benedict Ainslie, but also known as 'Big Ben' or 'Beano'. 
  • Dad Roddy skippered yacht Second Life in the first Whitbred Round the World Race in 1973/74, finishing seventh
  • Learned to sail as an eight year old in Cornwall and four years later finished 73rd in his first international regatta - the 1989 Optimist world championships in Japan.
  • Was bullied at school for a skin condition related to his allergy to the sun.  
  • Since 1992, every boat Ainslie sails has been named Rita, after his mother bought a badge during a visit to St Rita's Church at Tenerife and sewed it into her son's lifejacket for good luck. His current AC75 is called Britannia, which contains the name 'Rita'.
Ben Ainslie on his way to 2012 Olympic gold
Ben Ainslie on his way to 2012 Olympic gold. Photo credit: Getty
  • After winning Olympic silver (Atlanta 1996) and gold (Sydney 2000) in the Laser class, he gained 18kg to three consecutive golds in Finns.
  • Was the first of 8000 carriers, when the 2012 Olympic torch, when it began a 70-day tour of the United Kingdom at Land's End, and also carried the British flag at the London Olympics closing ceremony.
  • Has won 11 world championships, but finished 11th at the 2011 Finn regatta, when he was disqualified for gross misconduct, when he physically threatened a photographer, whose boat's wake prevented Ainslie from passing an opponent. 
Sir Ben Ainslie and wife Lady Georgie Thompson
Sir Ben Ainslie and wife Lady Georgie Thompson. Photo credit: Getty
  • Is renowned for his temper on the water, also engaging in a war of words with Finn rivals Jonas Hogh-Christensen and Pieter-Jan Postma, whom he claimed ganged up on him at the 2012 Olympics. 
  • Supports Chelsea FC in the English Premier League.
  • Married to Sky Sports News presenter Georgie Thompson, whom he met at a 2011 corporate event. "Ben was at the same table as me, but I didn't take much notice of him, until he got up to do a Q&A on stage. I don't recall what he said, but we shared a look and I thought, 'Here we go'."
  • The pair have a daughter Bellatrix and dog Biggles.
  • This is his fifth America’s Cup campaign, debuting with OneWorld Challenge in Auckland 2003. Served stints with Team NZ (as Dean Barker's practice helmsman), Oracle Team USA (as Jimmy Spithill's tactician), Ben Ainslie Racing (won the 2015/16 world series) and now INEOS Team UK. 
Sir Ben Ainslie & Jimmy Spithill
America's Cup allies & rivals Sir Ben Ainslie & Jimmy Spithill. Photo credit: Reuters
  • Became Spithill's right-hand man during the 2013 America’s Cup series against Team NZ and played a major role in turning around an 8-1 deficit to defend the 'Auld Mug'. The pair will face each other in this month's Prada Cup challenger final.

Join us on Saturday for live updates of the Luna Rossa v Team UK America's Cup challenger final