SAILOR Sir Ben Ainslie is used to competing with elite athletes.
But yesterday the Portsmouth-based Olympian took time out of preparations for next year’s America’s Cup regattas to take disadvantaged teenagers out on the water and give them a lesson in sailing.
Leigh Park youngsters who work with Big World Impact, which helps change lives through sport, took part in mini races with Sir Ben and members of his Land Rover BAR crew.
The group took a tour around the British side’s headquarters at the Camber in Old Portsmouth after and had lunch with the veteran sailor.
Sir Ben said the day was an important part of fulfilling the base’s aspirations.
‘Part of the team being here is about getting more youngsters out on the water,’ he said.
‘It’s an important part of the aims we have and we want to make a difference in the community.’
Owen Phillips, 13, from Leigh Park, was delighted to be given the opportunity.
He said: ‘It was great fun, we got to race and sail around and had to try to get as close as possible to the other boats as possible without hitting them.’
Meanwhile, Sir Ben told The News of his pride in Portsmouth as the countdown begins to the return of the America’s Cup World Series next summer.
Sometimes you have to pinch yourself and say “wow, this is happening.”Olympic sailor Sir Ben Ainslie
And he said his crew have been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received.
Sir Ben said preparations are under way to wow the home crowd again next July following the end of the 2015 America’s Cup qualifiers.
Sir Ben said: ‘We saw the new T2 testing boat out on the water a few weeks ago, we had a break from that in Bermuda but now we’re getting into testing that through the winter. That’s a big part of our development.
‘We thought this year’s World Series in Portsmouth was unbelievable with the amount of support we saw for the event and for the team.
‘We will learn a lot from this year, so next year will be even better.’
Sir Ben added: ‘Two years ago, this was just a vision.
‘We’ve had the support of the council and the locals, seen everything come together at the base and seen it all come together like it did this summer, and we’re looking forward to next year.
‘Sometimes you have to pinch yourself and say “wow, this is happening”.’
The man who helps to change the lives of local youngsters through Big World Impact said the trip to Sir Ben Ainslie’s Portsmouth headquarters will give them a huge boost.
Community engagement manager Julian Wadsworth MBE said: ‘All of these young people have either overcome adversity or been role models in their community.
‘This will be inspirational and help them to support their confidence and help to give them new goals.
‘It’s inspirational for them to mix with an elite sporting legend and a unique team.’