Olympic star Sir Ben Ainslie offered £8m to set up in Portsmouth

Great Britain's Ben Ainslie celebrates winning the Gold Medal after the Men's Finn Medal Race in Weymouth in the 2012 Olympics
Great Britain's Ben Ainslie celebrates winning the Gold Medal after the Men's Finn Medal Race in Weymouth in the 2012 Olympics

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CITY leaders are hoping an £8m sweetener will convince Olympic sailor Sir Ben Ainslie to set up a permanent race base in Portsmouth.

Leader of Portsmouth City Council Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson has put in a multi-million pound bid to pay for facilities and infrastructure if Sir Ben chooses to set up a base at the Camber dock in Old Portsmouth.

He said: ‘What I have done now is talked to the Department for Business for a bid of £8m to support the team.

‘We have put the bid in as a council and it’s to cover the costs of putting in the infrastructure and facilities needed.

‘We talked to the department about getting it in as an exceptional Regional Growth Fund bid.’

It’s hoped if the £8m bid is successful it will convince the Ainslie team to pick Portsmouth.

As revealed in The News on Saturday, inset, the four-time Olympic gold medallist is looking to base his racing team here.

Up to 100 jobs could be created, with the most successful sailor in Olympic history also drawing huge attention to the area.

And Cllr Vernon-Jackson said BAE Systems told him it would support Sir Ben’s team.

He added: ‘BAE Systems have said it will support the team – but only if they [the team] are in Portsmouth – by letting them use its facilities if needed and things like that.’

Sir Ben’s racing team have not confirmed if Portsmouth has been chosen but workers have been seen surveying the Camber.

The Olympic star, who used to train in Stokes Bay, Gosport, needs to set up a permanent base for his entry in the 35th America’s Cup.

The race has been going for 150 years and is one of the most difficult trophies to win. It could see a boost to the area, with workers using local facilities.

And Sir Ben would join a whole host of sailing legends based across the water in Gosport.

Alex Thomson, who came third in the Vendee Globe and is the youngest ever person to win a round-the-world race, is based in the town, as is Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail single-handed around the globe in 1968.

A spokeswoman for Sir Ben has previously said the team is looking for a location in Hampshire near the sea.