Portsmouth 2016 America’s Cup World Series will be ‘world-class sporting attraction’ say organisers

Land Rover BAR, skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie, in action during the Americas Cup in Portsmouth last year
Land Rover BAR, skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie, in action during the Americas Cup in Portsmouth last year

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ORGANISERS have unveiled their vision to create a ‘world-class’ America’s Cup World Series attraction in Portsmouth this summer.

Bosses say they are putting together a family spectacle that’s much bigger and better than the 2015 cup regatta, and believe the planned improvements will draw in more of the home crowd.

Last year, spectators weren’t keen on all of the barriers and restrictions that we had to put on place in that area (Southsea Common). So this is more open plan. Most people will know that the views from the common last year were amazing.

It comes after visitors complained after last year’s qualifiers that they weren’t allowed to bring their own food and drink, were confused by the ticketing structure and weren’t happy with what they got for their money.

For this year’s three-day spectacle, taking place between July 22 and 24, Southsea Common will be a free-to-view area with no restrictions, so that means no ticket is required, anyone can turn up and they can bring picnics to enjoy the action in the Solent.

In return there won’t be any bars or food stalls, main stage, big screens or audio commentary, though spectators will be able to tune in via the radio. An aerial display from the Red Bull Matadors has also been booked.

But it’s hoped local organisations – including The Royal Navy and Portsmouth Watersports Centre – will help put together a free activities programme on the common for guests.

A separate ticketed ‘Race Village’ arena covering Castle Field, Southsea Skatepark and the Bandstand will be created for paying customers.

It will feature a ‘tech zone’ where people can learn about the boats and their ability to ‘fly’ on the water due to the fact they’re foiling catamarans.

Team exhibitions, ‘dock out and dock in’ shows, and BMX and extreme sport action are also in store.

Event director Leslie Greenhalgh said: ‘The theme of the attraction will be more of a world-class sporting attraction than it was last year. It’s all about choice.

‘They can choose to immerse themselves in what we have to offer, or they can choose to along to the common, sit and have a picnic and enjoy the view.

‘Last year, spectators weren’t keen on all of the barriers and restrictions that we had to put in place in that area (Southsea Common). So this is more open plan. Most people will know that the views from the common last year were amazing. It’s a wide open area, but with a great summer, and if we have the weather like we had on the Saturday race day last year, it will be amazing.

‘We are looking at all the detail of what we’re able to put in that free area.

‘We are talking to a number of partners about content that will be able to go in our race village and the free area.’

More details of how the race village will look won’t be unveiled until after a council meeting on March 18, where the authority will decide how to divvy up land it owns for the event.

And Portsmouth Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie, leading the Land Rover BAR British team hoping to win the city qualifiers in the run-up to the competition’s final in 2017, is urging the home crowd to pack out the regatta.

Sir Ben said: ‘Racing at home is always the most exciting for us as a team, and winning last year’s event – the first racing event for Land Rover BAR – was fantastic.

‘We were overwhelmed by all the support we received from Portsmouth, and around the country – I have never seen crowds so large for a sailing event in the UK. We hope for more great racing and an even bigger home crowd to come to watch all the action this year.’