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Tearful Ben Ainslie opens Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre at Weymouth in tribute to friend and Olympic sailing star

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 10, 2014

  • Sir Ben Ainslie right, with Iain Percy, centre, with Freddie Simpson. The youngster cut a ribbon to open the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre. The ceremony was held at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. Also in the picture are Paul Goodison, left, who is holding Hamish Simpson Pictures: steve roberts

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Friends and family of Olympic sailing champion Andrew Simpson wept as team-mates paid an emotional tribute to him at the opening of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre in Weymouth yesterday.

The centre, which operates at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy is aiming to create an Olympic legacy by enabling participation in sailing regardless of financial, physical or social background.

The event marked the anniversary of the sailor's death, who tragically drowned in San Francisco Bay last year when his yacht capsized.

Iain Percy OBE, and Sir Ben Ainslie, his former sailing colleagues, officially opened the centre and madespeeches in honour of their friend.

Mr Percy said the day should be seen as a celebration of Andrew's achievements, not one of mourning.

"It was a tough decision to take, launching the centre on the ninth of May, being a year today since we lost the great man. But it's a great opportunity to celebrate him, not to be sad, and continue the great things he did in his life. This centre is all about that.

"Supporting others was a huge part of his life. As his friend and sailing partner, I looked to him and still do. Through things like this centre and my memories, I know what he would say was the right thing to do.

The Andrew Simpson Foundation, which was set up last July in memory of Mr Simpson and to inspire young sailors, has been a source of consolation for his bereaved friends and family, Mr Percy said.

"Over the last year, we have taken a lot of comfort from the Foundation," he said. "When we meet up, we end up laughing and remembering good times. We are trying to represent his values and this centre is going to give opportunities across the country and internationally."

Mr Ainslie, who is the most successful sailor in Olympic history with five medals at five consecutive games, praised the work of the people who made the whole thing possible and in particular, Leah Simpson, Andrew's widow.

"It is very exciting to be launching the centre. I would like to say huge thanks to everyone here and especially Leah and Iain. We are striving on a local level to help subsidise kids to get them out in the water."

The speeches were followed by a video with tributes from Mr Simpson's loved ones. Then the cutting of the ribbon was performed by Freddie Simpson, Andrew's son to warm applause by the Weymouth shoreline.

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