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The University of Southampton
Southampton Business School

Rio medal in sight for Southampton sailor

Published: 9 August 2016
Rio medal in sight for Southampton
Southampton Business School graduate Ben Saxton will be competing for gold at the Rio Olympics

Southampton graduate Ben Saxton (BSc Business Studies 2011) is aiming to join an illustrious group of British sailors and bring home a medal from the Games in Rio 2016.


Sailing in multi-hull Nacra 17 class of boat, which makes its Olympic debut this year, Ben and his sailing partner Nicola Groves are in good form after winning the World Cup Regatta in Weymouth in June – the last big competition before Rio. Ben and Nicola took the Gold medal amongst a fleet of 25 boats that featured nine of the ten best teams in the world.

That result, twinned with their convincing European and European Open titles won last October in Barcelona (which Ben describes as “awesome”) leave him in no doubt that a medal is the main objective.

“I believe if you go to the Olympics and do not win a medal then that is a missed opportunity. We will not just be going to compete; winning a Gold medal would feel awesome, that is the ultimate goal,” said Ben. “I do not know how I would react as I have never won one before but hopefully I will let you know!”

“We are in a position with our competition where the top six or seven countries are quite good and equal, including us, so it should be exciting in Rio,” he continued. “It’s a big achievement being selected to represent Britain. Only one boat from each country can enter each class at the Games so we had to beat some very good and more experienced sailors to get here, but the story is not over yet.

“I remember being on cloud nine for the majority of London 2012 and I wasn’t even competing so I don’t quite know what it is going to be like competing. Being part of the team and the atmosphere in Rio is going to be amazing,” he concluded.

Ben, originally from north Hertfordshire, began to sail at Grafham Water in the Midlands, introduced by his parents who were keen sailors. He has competed and won at international level since 2002 in a range of craft from the Optimist dinghy and 29er skiff to the double-handed 420 and 470 classes of boat.

Sailing for the University of Southampton in 2010, Ben teamed with Holly Scott to claim the Handicap fleet victory at the University Championships. Three years later, he was winning the silver medal with partner Hannah Diamond in the Nacra 17 World Championship.

“I am motivated by a love of the sport, and a raw and simple wish to be the best; I find that very satisfying,” he enthused. “I love it so much because I can get a mixture of feeling totally free and at one with the elements as well as excitement and adrenaline.

“The other aspect I love is the racing and campaigning,” he added. “Setting up strategies, tactics, and decision making around the racecourse, over the week-long event as a whole, and over the four-year cycle in order to peak across the final year.”

Since late September 2014, Ben has partnered with Nicola in the Nacra, the fastest of the Olympic boats when the wind and waves are up. In their first major event in November 2014, the pair showed their potential by finishing seventh in the Sailing World Cup Finals in Abu Dhabi.

“Nic and I have a good partnership,” said Ben. “We are very professional, whether it is running our campaign (as a business almost), or on the water training. We are also lucky to be good friends and that just makes it a lot more fun.”

While Ben exudes confidence, he admits that nerves do play a small part in his race preparations but he’s fully focused once the competition begins.

“I get a little nervous, normally a while before the race rather than immediately before it. But in the final run up to the race I am just performing at, everything is more under control. I always say emotion is a good thing, so nerves are fine; we can use them as drive.”



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