America's Cup winner and four-time Olympic champion Sir Ben Ainslie visited the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard today (26 January) for the official launch of the 2016 Great South Run, in support of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation.
The charity was set up in memory of sailor Andrew “Bart” Simpson, who tragically lost his life in an America's Cup training accident in May 2013. Ben Ainslie co-founded the foundation in July 2013 alongside Iain Percy and Andrew's wife Leah, which aims to inspire the next generation by using sailing to transform the lives of young people in the UK and around the world.
Last year the charity recruited around twenty people to run for them at the Great South Run, including double Olympic champion Iain Percy OBE. Ben Ainslie is Team Principal and Skipper for the Land Rover BAR America's Cup team, whose home is in Portsmouth, and today he was driving the campaign to sign up even more runners for the 2016 event on Sunday 23 October.
He said: “Like all charities the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation is totally reliant on financial support to run the Foundation and to have the effect that we want, so to be associated with the Great South Run is a fantastic opportunity for us. We're extremely grateful to be involved, and for all those people that are helping to support the charity."
The Great South Run's Southsea start line overlooks the Solent, which will once again provide the backdrop for the America's Cup World Series in Portsmouth in July.
He added: “Events like the Great South Run and the America's Cup World Series are really good for Portsmouth, that's why when we were looking for a place to set up our America's Cup team, personally it was a no brainer for us to come to Portsmouth because of it's maritime history.
“I think it's proven to be a fantastic venue for both of these big iconic events, and the future is very bright.”
The 10 mile event gives participants a unique opportunity to run through Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard, passing iconic landmarks such as HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose Museum.
The flat course has been graced by world-class athletes such as Liz McColgan, Paula Radcliffe, Sonia O'Sullivan, and Mo Farah, who won the men's race in 2009.
He said: “I do love running. I do quite a lot of running and cycling for my training and if I – or any of the Land Rover BAR team – get the opportunity to take part in this year's Great South Run we will.
“I think Iain did it in 1:23 last year, which is a really good effort, so if I could get close to that I'd be happy."
The event has grown into a festival of sport in Portsmouth and Southsea, with nearly 30,000 people taking part in four events across two days, including the Junior & Mini Great South Run and the Great South Run 5k.
Entries are open now at www.greatrun.org/south