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Ever wondered who dominates the waves in the sailing world?

From mastering the winds to conquering the seas, these 15 icons set the sails of legacy.

Grab your life jackets as we navigate through the triumphs of the elite, charting one legendary voyage at a time.

Best Sailing Athletes:

  1. Sir Ben Ainslie
  2. Russell Coutts
  3. Paul Elvstrรธm
  4. Dennis Conner
  5. Ellen MacArthur
  6. Shirley Robertson
  7. Torben Grael
  8. Robert Scheidt
  9. Peter Blake
  10. Ernesto Bertarelli
  11. Franck Cammas
  12. Charles Caudrelier
  13. Iain Percy
  14. Rodney Pattisson
  15. Nathan Outteridge

#1 Sir Ben Ainslie

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: British
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: February 5, 1977
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: 4ร— Olympic gold medalist (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012), 1ร— Olympic silver medalist (1996), 11ร— World Champion, America’s Cup winner (2013)

Known as “King of the Waves,” Sir Ben Ainslie is the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. Demonstrating incredible tactical acumen and an aggressive sailing style, he mastered both fleet racing and match racing with aplomb. His intense focus and will to win were evident in his remarkable comeback during the 2012 Olympics in Weymouth.

Ainslie has had a significant impact on the sport, especially through his role in the dramatic 2013 America’s Cup, where he helped Oracle Team USA stage one of the greatest comebacks in sailing history. His creation of the British America’s Cup team, INEOS Team UK, highlights his commitment to national pride and his sport’s future. Sir Ben also champions sustainability initiatives through his involvement in the 1851 Trust, helping to inspire the next generation about the ocean, sustainability, and science.

#2 Russell Coutts

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: New Zealander
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: March 1, 1962
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: 5ร— America’s Cup winner (as skipper/helmsman: 1995, 2000, 2003; as CEO: 2010, 2013), Olympic Gold Medalist (1984), multiple World Championship titles

Russell Coutts stands as a sailing titan, with a strategic mind and unsurpassed match-racing skills. He has an illustrious reputation for being nearly unbeatable when it mattered most, particularly in the America’s Cup. His tactical precision and his ability to stay cool under pressure have been hallmarks of his career.

Coutts’ legacy includes his pivotal role in transforming the America’s Cup into a high-tech sport with the introduction of the AC50 foiling catamarans in 2017. He has also contributed to the sport’s growth through coaching and management roles. Despite facing criticism for sailing under different national flags during his career, Coutts’ focus on innovation and performance excellence has helped maintain his status as a revered figure in the sailing community.

#3 Paul Elvstrรธm

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: Danish
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: February 25, 1928
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: 4ร— Olympic gold medalist (1948, 1952, 1956, 1960), 13ร— World Champion in eight different classes, European Champion

Paul Elvstrรธm, “The Great Dane,” was admired for his competitive spirit and ingenuity on the water. An innovator, he led the creation of several sailing technologies, including the self-bailer and the Elvstrรธm bailer. Elvstrรธmโ€™s physical fitness and remarkable ability to read the wind set him apart, earning him a legendary status in the sport.

Elvstrรธm left an indelible mark on sailing with his writing as well, authoring influential books on racing tactics that continue to be foundational texts for competitive sailors. He was also dedicated to sportsmanship and is remembered for his quote, “You haven’t won the race if in winning the race you have lost the respect of your competitors.” His dedication both on and off the course reflects a legacy that has made sailing accessible and fairer for all.

#4 Dennis Conner

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: American
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: September 16, 1942
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: 4ร— America’s Cup winner (1974, 1980, 1987, 1988), Star World Champion (1971), multiple world championship titles

Dennis Conner, known as “Mr. America’s Cup,” brought unmatched competitive zeal and keen mastery of race strategy to sailing. His determination to win was notably showcased in his successful effort to recapture the America’s Cup for the United States in 1987 after losing it in 1983, ending the longest winning streak in sports history.

Connerโ€™s impact on sailing is vast; he popularized the sport in the United States and authored books detailing his experiences and strategies. Some controversy shrouded his competitive tactics, deemed too aggressive by some, but his passion for sailing and devotion to advancing its prominence solidified his stature as a sailing luminary. Conner also engaged in philanthropy, supporting maritime education, and encouraging youth participation in sailing.

#5 Ellen MacArthur

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: British
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: July 8, 1976
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: Set the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe (2005), 2nd in Vendรฉe Globe (2001), Various solo transatlantic race wins

Dame Ellen MacArthur captured hearts and headlines with her solo sailing ventures, specifically when she set the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation in 2005. Her finesse in handling high-stress situations at sea and her affectionate bond with her boat and the ocean are part of her endearing legacy to the sailing community.

MacArthur’s retirement from professional sailing led her to establish the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, aiding young people in regaining their confidence post-cancer treatments. Moreover, she founded the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, focusing on inspiring a generation to re-think, re-design, and build a positive future through the framework of a circular economy. Her passion for sustainability and helping others is as profound as her sailing accomplishments.

#6 Shirley Robertson

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: British
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: July 15, 1968
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: 2ร— Olympic gold medalist (2000, 2004), MBE for services to sailing (2000)

Shirley Robertson, OBE, is renowned for her tactical intelligence and relentless drive that led her to become the first British woman to win Olympic gold medals at consecutive games. Known for her exceptional ability to keep her cool under pressure, Robertson thrived in the competitive dinghy racing scene.

Apart from her on-water successes, Robertson has significantly contributed to the sport as a broadcaster and sailing commentator, bringing the nuances of sailing to a broader audience. Additionally, through her work with charities and promoting women in sport, Robertson has remained a vital influencer and advocate in the sailing world. Her ongoing commitment to fostering talent and spreading her love for sailing complements a distinguished competitive legacy.

#7 Torben Grael

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: Brazilian
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: July 22, 1960
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: 2ร— Olympic gold medalist (1996, 2004), 5ร— Olympic medalist (total), Volvo Ocean Race winner (2008-2009)

Torben Grael, sometimes referred to as “Turbo Torben,” is one of the most accomplished sailors in Olympic history. His remarkable boat handling and trimming skills, coupled with his analytical approach to racing strategy, led him to secure a wealth of Olympic medals.

Grael has left an indelible mark not only through his performance at the Olympic Games but also by winning the grueling Volvo Ocean Race as a skipper. His contributions to Brazilian sailing are immense, leading to increased recognition and development of the sport in his home country. He has also been influential in nurturing young talent, including his own family members, who continue the Grael sailing legacy.

#8 Robert Scheidt

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: Brazilian
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: April 15, 1973
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: 2ร— Olympic gold medalist (1996, 2004), 5ร— Olympic medalist (total), multiple Laser and Star class World Championships winner

Robert Scheidt, a virtuoso in small boat sailing, is celebrated for his fine-tuned boat speed and his ability to thrive in various conditionsโ€”skills that secured him a place among the greats in Olympic sailing. Competing predominantly in the Laser and Star classes, his consistency and high-level performance have been truly remarkable.

The Brazilian sailor’s impact on his nations’ prominence in international sailing is unquestionable, inspiring emerging sailors and contributing to the growing respect for Brazilian competitors. Scheidt’s status as a sporting hero is complemented by his gracious personality and commitment to the sporting community, making him a respected figure both on and off the water. His dedication to sailing has not waned as he continues to compete at high levels, continually setting a benchmark for excellence.

#9 Peter Blake

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: New Zealander
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: October 1, 1948
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Yachtsman
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: Americaโ€™s Cup winner (1995, 2000), Whitbread Round the World Race winner (1989โ€“1990)

Known as “Sir Peter” after being knighted, Peter Blake was an exceptional yachtsman, celebrated for his leadership in winning the America’s Cup for New Zealand twice. His sailing prowess and seamanship were evident in his numerous victories and innovations in the sport.

Blake’s tragic death during an environmental expedition shocked the sailing world and emphasized his dedication to the environment and ocean conservation. His legacy continues through the Sir Peter Blake Trust, fostering leadership and environmental awareness. Off the sea, he inspired his home country and sailors worldwide with his competitive spirit and environmental activism.

#10 Ernesto Bertarelli

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: Italian-Swiss
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: September 22, 1965
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor, Team Owner
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: Americaโ€™s Cup winner (2003, 2007)

Ernesto Bertarelli is an accomplished sailor and the driving force behind the Alinghi sailing team, leading them to two America’s Cup victories. His strategic approach and commitment to excellence have been key to his team’s success.

As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, Bertarelli oversees the Bertarelli Foundation, focusing on marine conservation and life sciences. His work both on and off the water demonstrates a dedication to innovation and sustainability, contributing significantly to the health of the world’s oceans and advancing scientific research.

#11 Franck Cammas

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: French
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: December 22, 1972
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: Volvo Ocean Race winner (2011โ€“2012), Multiple ORMA Multihull world champion

Franck Cammas is lauded for his adaptability and tactical intelligence in a broad range of sailing disciplines, from single-handed efforts to commanding large crews. His victories across many classes underscore his versatile sailing skill set.

Besides his competitive success, Cammas also engages in ocean racing training programs, nurturing the next generation of sailors. His strategic mind and collaborative nature in promoting sailing skills reflect his genuine passion for the sport, branching out to fostering youth involvement and sharing his profound expertise.

#12 Charles Caudrelier

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: French
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: February 26, 1974
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: Volvo Ocean Race winner (2014โ€“2015), Transat Jacques Vabre winner

Charles Caudrelier is respected for his keen understanding of ocean racing tactics and his ability to persevere through challenging conditions. His leadership and experience have paved the way for victories in some of the world’s most demanding sailing races.

Out of the public eye, Caudrelier keeps a relatively private personal life while maintaining a professional focus on competitive sailing. His contributions to his sport are felt through his consistent high-performance and mentoring of younger sailors looking to make their own mark on the open seas.

#13 Iain Percy

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: British
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: March 21, 1976
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: 2ร— Olympic gold medalist (2000, 2008), America’s Cup finalist

Iain Percy, a prominent figure in British sailing, has an Olympic career embellished with gold medals, showcasing his keen tactics and seamless boat handling. Percy’s skills in various sailing classes reflect his adaptive strategy and competitive edge.

Following the untimely death of his sailing partner, Andrew Simpson, Percy co-founded the Andrew Simpson Foundation to honor his legacy and promote sailing among youth. His commitment to sharing his love for the sport and supporting young sailors contributes significantly to growing the future of sailing both nationally and internationally.

#14 Rodney Pattisson

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: British
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: August 5, 1943
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: 3ร— Olympic medalist (2 gold, 1 silver), Flying Dutchman World Champion

Rodney Pattisson’s Olympic success is a testament to his precision and competitive instinct in the highly technical Flying Dutchman class. His disciplined approach to training and racing has earned him a revered place in sailing history.

Pattisson’s contributions to sailing are not limited to his Olympic feats; his technical insights have influenced sail-making and boat design, improving performance standards in the sport. The lasting impact of his innovations continues to be felt by sailors around the world, making him a celebrated figure in the development of competitive sailing.

#15 Nathan Outteridge

  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: Australian
  • ๐ŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: January 28, 1986
  • โ›ต Position/Role: Sailor
  • ๐Ÿ† Career Highlights: Olympic gold medalist (2012), Olympic silver medalist (2016), multiple world championships in the 49er class

Nathan Outteridge, an Australian sailor, has a stellar track record in the 49er class, showcasing his dynamic sailing techniques and ability to thrive in high-pressure situations. His Olympic accomplishments underscore his skill and determination.

Outteridge has helped push the boundaries of sailing, particularly with his involvement in the high-speed world of foiling. As a skipper in the SailGP league, he continues to contribute to the evolution of the sport. His innovative mindset and penchant for speed sailing heighten the excitement and progress of competitive sailing around the globe.


Who is the best Sailing player of all time?

Sir Ben Ainslie is considered the best Sailing player of all time. Here’s a link to our article on why we think Sir Ben Ainslie is the best Sailing player of all time. His record-breaking achievements and Olympic medals set him apart.

Who are the top 10 greatest Sailing players of all time?

Sir Ben Ainslie, Russell Coutts, Paul Elvstrรธm, Dennis Conner, Ellen MacArthur, Shirley Robertson, Torben Grael, Robert Scheidt, Peter Blake, and Ernesto Bertarelli are the top 10 greatest Sailing players of all time, known for their exceptional skills and contributions to the sport.

Who is the most famous female Sailing player?

Ellen MacArthur is the most famous female Sailing player. Her solo long-distance voyages and world records have garnered international recognition, making her a prominent figure in the world of sailing.

Meet Rev, one of our dedicated team members who embodies the essence of sports passion. When heโ€™s not immersed in the world of sports content creation, Rev is busy honing his skills in esports and exploring the great outdoors through activities like hiking and basketball.

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