Sir Ben Ainslie is awarded Freedom of Beaulieu River at ceremony to mark £2 million refurbishment on Buckler's Hard 50th anniversary
A SAIL up Beaulieu River by Britain’s most decorated Olympic sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie, opened celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Buckler’s Hard yacht harbour.
Sir Ben’s boat was part of a fleet from Beaulieu River Sailing Club taking part in the event which also marked the end of a £2m refurbishment of the site.
More than 800 berth and mooring holders enjoyed the spectacle during which Lord Montagu presented a certificate to Sir Ben granting him honorary freedom of the river.
Lord Montagu said: “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's links to Lymington earned him a post box painted gold in 2012 in honour of his achievements in the London Games.
He said: “Sailing here 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 shot."
He added: “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.”
Also attending the celebrations was Sir Chay, who opened the yacht harbour when it was newly created in 1971 after completing his round-the-world feat in his yacht British Steel.
He said: “It is hard to believe that I came here 50 years ago as a young boy and have now returned as an old man. Nothing has changed really – it is still a fabulous place to come.”
The redevelopment of the harbour provides 68 new marina berths which can now accommodate vessels up to 20 metres.
Gosport-based Marina Projects managed the redevelopment, while the work was carried out by Fareham-based Walcon Marine.