VIDEO: Sir Ben Ainslie sails to Buckler’s Hard for 50th anniversary

Sir Ben Ainslie swapped his race boat for a traditional scow to sail along the Beaulieu River to the 50th anniversary celebration of Buckler’s Hard Yacht Harbour following its £2m redevelopment.

More than 800 berth and mooring holders gathered last weekend to welcome ashore Sir Ben and Beaulieu River Sailing Club Commodore and director of Beaulieu Enterprises, the Hon Mary Montagu Scott. They sailed together to the event, as part of a fleet from Beaulieu River Sailing Club, which was formed 90 years ago under the patronage of Mary’s grandmother Pearl.

Lord Montagu and Mary Montagu-Scott present ‘Freedom of the Beaulieu River’ to Sir Ben Ainslie

While the fleet continued with its race, Ainslie was presented with a certificate granting him the honorary ‘Freedom of the Beaulieu River’ by Lord Montagu.

They were joined in the ceremony by round-the-world yachtsman Sir Chay Blyth CBE BEM, who was granted the ‘freedom of the river’ by Lord Montagu’s father at the original marina opening in 1971.

Lord Montagu says: “We were thrilled and indeed honoured to welcome Sir Ben Ainslie as our special guest to commemorate the completion of our rebuilt yacht harbour. With the recent Tokyo Games fresh in our minds, it is good to reflect that Sir Ben is the most successful sailor in Olympic history, winning medals at five consecutive Olympics from 1996. As a resident of the Isle of Wight, who will be sailing in the Solent, it occurred to me that safe harbouring in the Beaulieu River might occasionally be useful between races.”

Sir Ben Ainslie adds: “Sailing here with Mary just reminded me of what a wonderful sport sailing is and how lucky we are to be able to get out on the water in such beautiful surroundings as the Beaulieu River. I am not quite sure how we’d get on coming up the Beaulieu River in an America’s Cup 75 footer that does 50 knots of speed but one day we may give it a shout.

“I enjoyed sailing with Mary, learning more about the Beaulieu River and Buckler’s Hard and being back in a small scow without the pressure of competing at speed. In years to come, I hope to have more time to use the ‘freedom of the river’ on the water here. It is a huge honour to have been given the ‘freedom of the river’ when the two previous sailors to be granted it were Sir Chay Blyth and Sir Francis Chichester.”

The redevelopment of the yacht harbour was carried out over two winters, now able to provide 66 new marina berths, with larger berths to suit vessels up to 20m, upgraded electrical services, improved WiFi and a new dedicated visitor area.

Gosport-based Marina Projects managed the redevelopment, while the work was carried out by Fareham-based Walcon Marine – which undertook the original yacht harbour build 50 years ago. The Beaulieu Estate worked with agencies including Natural England and the Environment Agency to continue to protect the river’s unique habitats and species.

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