PORTSMOUTH delivered in style.
That is the overwhelming verdict after the city successfully staged the opening round of the America’s Cup World Series.
Despite dreadful weather conditions scuppering many events yesterday and Friday, about 75,000 people packed Southsea seafront on Saturday to watch two thrilling races and enjoy the evening entertainment of the Portsmouth Live! concert featuring Spandau Ballet, Wet Wet Wet and McBusted.
As well as the racing, which saw the Sir Ben Ainslie-led British BAR team triumph, there were also spectacular displays including one from the Red Bull Matadors aerobatics team.
With the event being beamed across the world, millions of pounds were also pumped into the local economy as a result of the regatta.
And with another World Series being held in Portsmouth next year, Sir Ben Ainslie led the praise on a job well done.
The most successful Olympic sailor of all time, who skippered Portsmouth-based Land Rover BAR to the top of the leaderboard in the first qualifying event for the America’s Cup, said: ‘The event has been a huge success.
‘Saturday was unbelievable – I have never seen anything like that. We were delighted to be able to perform well in front of our home crowd.
‘We have seen the potential now and it’s huge. It was an amazing day and next year will be as good, if not better.’
Rival skipper Nathan Outteridge, from Sweden’s Artemis Racing, said: ‘Despite the weather yesterday, it’s been amazing here.
‘It was amazing to see so many people come down to watch it. We’re looking forward to coming back next year.
‘It’s probably the biggest turnout we have ever had in any World Series event so it would be nice to repeat that next year when we come back to Portsmouth.’
Minister for Portsmouth, Mark Francois, praised the city for the weekend.
Speaking to The News, the former armed forces minister said: ‘It’s the first time the cup has been back here since 1851, history is being made. It’s tremendously exciting for Portsmouth, this is also a national event taking place in Portsmouth and something the whole country is involved in.’
Mr Francois watched Saturday afternoon’s racing from Southsea Castle with other dignitaries.
The opportunity for thousands more people to witness the races yesterday was missed as the second round of qualifiers was called off due to high winds.
The races had already been moved earlier to midday in a bid to miss the gales.
The race village was evacuated at lunchtime after the Waterfront Festival Arena and fanzone were closed to the public for safety reasons. But with Saturday being called a huge success, Portsmouth’s economy will still benefit from hosting the regatta.
A full economic impact report is expected to be released in August and will have the figures from all four days.
Council leader Donna Jones said millions was expected to be pumped into the region based on qualifiers held in other cities.
When San Francisco hosted the event in 2012 the American city raked in £56m ($88m).
Cllr Jones said: ‘The economic boost to the city has been fantastic. Traffic flowed really well on Saturday, there were no incidents or issues.
‘Saturday was the day that showcased the city to the world.’
For comprensive coverage of the four-day event see americascup.portsmouth.co.uk