Last Tuesday, I was honoured to attend a very special event at 10 Downing Street – the exciting announcement that Portsmouth will be the home of Sir Ben Ainslie’s new America’s Cup sailing hub.
Playing host to this venture is a real accolade for our area and Sir Ben will be in good company when he joins the likes of Gosport’s Alex Thomson Racing and Clipper Ventures, which already use Portsmouth Harbour as their bases.
With a £7.5m cash injection from the government, the arrival of the sailing hub is not just great news for the local maritime industry.
It will also be of huge benefit to our area’s wider economy, creating jobs and boosting the skill sets of local people through a number of apprenticeship programmes.
And this wasn’t the only piece of nautical news for Portsmouth Harbour last week. On Thursday, the Oceans of Hope – the first yacht to complete a global circumnavigation with a working crew of people living with multiple sclerosis – sailed into Gunwharf Quays marina on the European leg of its 61,000km (38,000-mile) voyage.
The Oceans of Hope project is a truly wonderful venture which empowers people with MS to broaden their horizons and conquer personal challenges.
I was proud to learn that Gosport’s very own Phil Gowers is the first British crew member on this unique project.
Always keen to fly the flag for our area up in parliament, I welcomed both of these good news stories during questions to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the House of Commons on Thursday.
I was pleased to hear the minister responding, Helen Grant MP, express her own congratulations for the inspirational crew of Oceans of Hope.
The Solent region is rapidly gaining a global reputation for marine excellence and as we continue to attract high-profile sailing ventures, the opportunity for this sector to flourish is significant.