IT was the moment a Hampshire sailing community had been waiting for.

Just days after performing a dramatic U-turn the Royal Mail finally painted one of Lymington ’s post boxes gold in honour of Olympic hero Ben Ainslie , who lives in the town.

Maintenance worker Steve Coles was cheered and applauded when he arrived yesterday to give the High Street box a golden glow.

No-one was more pleased than Lymington businessman Rob Smith, 54, who painted the box illegally in the early hours of August 11.

He had been expecting the Royal Mail to do it following Ben’s latest gold medal-winning triumph.

But bosses decided to decorate one of the post boxes in Restronguet , Cornwall, where the 35-year-old athlete grew up and learned to sail.

After taking matters into his own hands Mr Smith was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage and spent the night in police cells.

The box became Lymington’s biggest tourist attraction, with hundreds of people queuing up to have their picture taken beside the unauthorised tribute to the most successful sailor in Olympic history.

The Royal Mail eventually decided to paint the box and withdrew their complaint against Mr Smith, who will face no further action.


The Lymington bar and restaurant owner was the subject of goodnatured banter yesterday as he watched Mr Coles make the tribute official. One passer-by told him: “He’s doing a much better job than you did.”

Raising his arms Mr Smith replied: “More time – and no handcuffs!”

He told the Daily Echo: “I’m over the moon. I painted it as a mark of respect to Ben and I’m delighted that it’s now been done officially.

Common sense has prevailed.”

The box is likely to stay gold for about six months.

Ben is in San Francisco preparing for the America’s Cup.