World of Sport

Club ‘flabbergasted’ by Sir Ben Ainslie’s charity fundraising record

A small sailing club were left "flabbergasted" after a small charity fundraiser exploded thanks to Sir Ben Ainslie's incredibly popular involvement.

Starting out with very modest intentions, a record-breaking sum was rapidly raised after Ainslie offered to take young sailors out on for a private lesson.

Sailors motivated by the prospect of a session out on the water with a sailing superstar helped to raise nearly £20,000 for less fortunate youngsters.

The Salterns Sailing Club in Lymington were raising money for Children in Need over several months before the chance of a private lesson with Olympic legend Ainslie saw the fund explode to a record-breaking £19,584.

From a silent auction, a tombola, sponsored car washes and a 24-hour sailathon, numerous activities raised money for the good cause before Ainslie's offer of a private session took it to a new level.

Nikki Mans, the club’s Children in Need coordinator, said: "We were flabbergasted – to be honest we were hoping to break £10,000 overall and we broke it within hours,” she said.

"We began to realise offering a Ben Ainslie private lesson really motivated the young sailors.

"I think the focus from the sailing club’s perspective is fortunate children having an option to help less fortunate children."

The club had previously raised £92,000 over the course of the past 14 years for Children in Need, raising around £7,000 to £8,000 annually.

Additional auction items included a 45-foot boat for a day previously used by Richard Branson and commemorative t-shirts presented by GB sailor Hannah Snellgrove.

It's not the only thing on Ainslie's agenda at the moment after he revealed that his drive to win the America's Cup with a British team for the first time in the trophy's 163-year history is "in a good place" and that he has made significant progress towards raising the $100m (£60.8m) required to try.

The four-times Olympic gold medallist, who endured a rollercoaster 2013 that encompassed the death of his close friend and fellow sailor Andrew "Bart" Simpson as well as a key role in masterminding one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time for Team Oracle in the America's Cup, said a final decision would be made in the spring.