PORTSMOUTH is still on track to host America’s Cup racing despite a radical change to the rules.
That’s the message today after the world sailing competition revealed yesterday that the sport’s vessels would switch from 50ft catamarans to 75ft monohulls.
It was a decision that prompted questions regarding the suitability of the Land Rover BAR’s headquarters on the Camber to house the boats, while others suggested Southsea seafront was not deep enough to be used as a racing track.
But skipper Sir Ben Ainslie moved to reassure fans that the team can tackle the new challenge.
He said: ‘We are comfortable with the transition.
‘The key people in our sailing, design, engineering and support teams all have a great deal of relevant experience.
Unfortunately, for Portsmouth, the announcement of the new protocol and design of boat indicates that Southsea seafront is not an ideal location for a race.Alan Priddy
‘With the rules not coming out until March, we hope it will be a collaborative approach to its development with all stakeholders included.’
Alan Priddy, who sailed around the world in iconic vessel Lively Lady, questioned the suitability of the Solent for racing with the new boats.
He said: ‘Unfortunately, for Portsmouth, the announcement of the new protocol and design of boat indicates that Southsea seafront is not an ideal location for a race.
‘The new boats will need deep water and a substantial safe distance from the shore.’
Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said that experts had confirmed that the seafront works for the new rules.
‘We have spoken to experts who are confident that the seafront will be suitable for future events in the America’s Cup.
‘Frankly, I cannot think of anywhere else in the country other than Portsmouth to host the event.
‘Anyone who came to the last two events will have seen that it is one of the best sailing courses in the world.’
An anonymous Portsmouth sailor said: ‘I do question how they will be able to house these new 75ft monohulls at the headquarters. They can also build two, so will that be feasible there?
‘The worry is that Southsea seafront will not be able to accommodate this kind of close-quarter sailing as it is not deep enough.’
The protocol was announced by this year’s cup winners Emirates Team New Zealand who announced that preliminary regattas for the competition would take place in 2019 and 2020 with the main race being held in Auckland, New Zealand or Italy in March 2021.
This scrapped the plans to hold the event biannually and sailing fans in Portsmouth will now have to wait until 2019 to see racing, should the city’s bid be successful.