Ben Ainslie has announced he is stepping down as driver of the Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team to be replaced by two-time Olympic gold medallist Giles Scott with immediate effect.
Ainslie, who will continue his role of Emirates GBR CEO, said the decision was ‘probably the toughest decision’ of his sporting career, but ‘it’s time to let the next generation come through’.
This means Scott will drive the Emirates GBR F50 at next week’s Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
Speaking about the decision, Ainslie said: “Like any big decision, there’s plenty that goes into it and a lot of factors at play.
“As the CEO of both Emirates GBR and the INEOS Britannia America’s Cup Team, and most importantly I’m a husband and father, at some point you’ve got to realize that you can’t do everything.”
Ainslie described Scott, who is also his teammate on the INEOS Britannia America’s Cup Team, as ‘one of the best in the sport’.
“He’s an incredible sailor, one of the best I’ve ever raced with, but he’s also a very mature, level-headed person and that’s why I think he will do a fantastic job in SailGP,” he said.
Scott said his appointment as Emirates GBR driver was ‘a big moment’.
“SailGP is an amazing league, there’s nothing else like it and for Ben to give me the call up is amazing,” he said. “I’ve got some catching up to do, but the Emirates GBR Team is a great squad, everybody involved is hugely experienced and top quality sailors. I’ve got to step up to the mark and do the best job I can to fill those big old boots that Ben’s left behind.”
Ainslie, who first took on his role as driver for Emirates GBR ahead of Season 2 in 2019, will continue in the role of Emirates GBR CEO to focus on the team’s overall performance both on and off the water. Strategist Hannah Mills meanwhile will continue in her role, supported by the team in her ambition to become the first female driver of a SailGP team.
As part of this, Emirates GBR has organized a Women’s Pathway training day on the British F50 ahead of racing in Abu Dhabi, with Mills helming the session alongside female athletes from other SailGP Teams.
Ainslie said: “Hannah is an incredible talent and it’s been really impressive to see how she’s got to grips with these boats. We fully support her in her goal to become the first female driver in SailGP and will continue to provide her more training time on the water, starting in Abu Dhabi, and I don’t think it will be long until we see her racing an F50.”
Ainslie has always emphasized his passion for supporting the next generation. In 2022, Ainslie and Mills set up the Athena Pathway Programme (APP) which aims to fast-track development for youth and female sailors, level the playing field and bring diversity into the sport at its highest level, both on and off the water.