Minister for Portsmouth backs Sir Ben Ainslie’s sailing base plans

Sir Ben Ainslie with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (141695-4628)
Sir Ben Ainslie with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (141695-4628)
The countryside surrounding Harting Down in the South Downs National Park, in West Sussex.

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THE Minister for Portsmouth has welcomed news that Sir Ben Ainslie could bring his America’s Cup sailing base to the city.

As reported in The News, the Olympic hero wants Portsmouth to be the headquarters to train the British team who will bid to win the competition for the UK for the first time in 150 years.

Now, Michael Fallon has backed the plans, which Sir Ben says could create 1,000 new jobs and bring in millions to the local economy.

Mr Fallon, said: ‘This is a tremendously exciting opportunity. It has the potential to provide a major economic and sporting boost to the UK and could strengthen the Solent’s place on the global map as a centre of marine excellence.

‘We have been working closely with Sir Ben Ainslie’s team and we are looking at how to support the project.’

Sir Ben, 37, was part of Oracle Team USA which secured a dramatic 9-8 win over Team New Zealand in San Francisco last autumn, and is determined to repeat that success with a home-grown team come 2017.

He was at the launch of Britain’s bid to win the 35th America’s Cup at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich yesterday, which was attended by the Duchess of Cambridge.

He said: ‘Winning that event in San Francisco with a good group of guys was way more powerful than anything I had done as an individual, to share that experience.

‘But standing there on the podium lifting the America’s Cup, it did cross my mind that it would be much more fulfilling with a British team, and so that is the goal.’

The America’s Cup was first contested off the Isle of the Wight in 1851 and after the inaugural trophy was lost to the United States’ boat, it has never been won back by a British yacht club.

The team’s base would be at the Camber Dock in Old Portsmouth. It would need planning permission from Portsmouth City Council.

A public meeting is being held next Monday, although a venue is yet to be confirmed.

One on Monday this week had to be cancelled at the last minute as too many people turned up to be accommodated in the Royal Naval Club and Royal Albert Yacht Club.