Bus Parade For Team GB's Sailors

Team GB's sailors were given a thunderous welcome as hundreds of people lined the streets of Weymouth and Portland for an open-top bus parade.

The medallists, including Lymington's record-breaking Ben Ainslie, saluted the crowds as a convoy of police vehicles led the Team GB bus through the winding streets of Dorset - home to the sailing events at this year's Games.

Four-time gold medallist Ainslie, the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time, said: ''It's absolutely amazing being in front of a crowd like that. All the people out there supporting us made a huge difference.''

London 2012 saw Ainslie, 35, win his fourth consecutive gold to add to the silver he won in his first Olympics as a 19-year-old in Atlanta in 1996.

The hard-fought gold on Weymouth's waters, when he battled from a losing position, confirmed his place in the record books - surpassing the four consecutive golds won by Danish sailor Paul Elvstrom.

And the sailor paid tribute to the crowds who had supported him, not only on the water, but also during his stint as the first torch bearer, in Cornwall on May 19.

Ainslie, who was also chosen to lead Team GB into the Olympic Stadium for the closing ceremony, added: ''I was very fortunate down in Land's End, it was a huge eye opener to see what it meant to people who had got up at the crack of dawn to go down and see the Olympic Flame - you see how much it meant around the country.

''For us to be able to come here and see you guys - it really is the people's games.''

The sportsman, who learned to sail at Restronguet in Cornwall, then obliged the crowd by holding his fourth gold medal aloft.

He added: ''This is the biggest and heaviest medal we've seen over the years. It has been in my pocket for the last week or so, and then eventually my mum and dad will look after it."

Ainslie will be heading to San Francisco on Friday, to compete in the America's Cup World Series.

Luke Patience, who won silver with Stuart Bithell in the 470 at their first Olympic Games, said: ''The warmth we felt from having a home Games was the most amazing experience.

''We had a great time for the whole two weeks. It has been very surreal.

''I hope that we, the athletes, can inspire a generation to try these sports.

''The public have been amazing, it's something we don't get to experience as much because we are out on the water.

''But everyone has flooded in, and to feel that really spurs you on during the harder moments.''

bus parade

Judith Patience, who had spent the last two weeks in Dorset watching her son compete, was among those welcoming the open-top bus to Portland Heights this afternoon.

She said: ''We are immensely proud. They did a great job, they worked hard and they deserve it.''

Julie Mellor, 34, who was visiting the area with her family, including children Euan and Drew, from Winchester in Hampshire, said: ''We were on holiday here and we thought we couldn't miss it.

''We just had to see it. It was a memory for them, and such a big thing to see Team GB.

''It was really lovely, like a carnival atmosphere - and the sun came out.''