Olympic sailing star Sir Ben Ainslie plans base in Portsmouth

Sir Ben Ainslie
Sir Ben Ainslie
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OLYMPIC sailing hero Sir Ben Ainslie has set his sights on Portsmouth to be the home of his racing team.

The four-time Olympic gold medallist is considering setting up a permanent base for his America’s Cup team in the area at the Camber dock in Old Portsmouth.

The move is expected to bring in up to 100 jobs – and international attention as the eyes of the world rest on the sailor, who won the oldest and most prestigious prize in sailing last year.

It would also be a boost to the local economy, with the team using other local businesses and bringing in visitors.

Last night, Sir Ben’s racing team would not confirm if Portsmouth had been chosen, saying it had ‘potential’.

But sources say workers have been seen at the Camber carrying out surveying work with a view to moving the team in.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the leader of Portsmouth City Council, said it would bring a huge boost to the city.

He said: ‘I’m pleased to hear that Ben Ainslie may be coming here. It will be an enormous coup for the city.

‘It will bring jobs here – it will bring many good things.

‘It will bring not just the eyes of Britain to Portsmouth, but the eyes of the world as well.

‘The international attention would be huge.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the move could bring up to 100 jobs.

A spokeswoman for Sir Ben would not confirm last night if Portsmouth had been chosen, but issued a statement which said: ‘Ben Ainslie Racing, the team looking to enter the 35th America’s Cup, have been researching a number of sites in the Hampshire region with sea access to establish a permanent team base.

‘One site identified with the potential to successfully operate the America’s Cup team from is the Camber in Old Portsmouth.’

Sir Ben, who used to train in Stokes Bay, is the most successful sailor in Olympic history.

He won medals at five consecutive Olympic Games, including gold at the last four.

The Camber dock in Old Portsmouth is currently home to the Wightlink Isle of Wight ferry service and many fishing vessels and commercial barges.

The America’s Cup is billed as the most difficult trophy in sport to win.

In more than 150 years since the first race, only four nations have won it.

The event pre-dates the modern Olympic Games, with nine contests for the America’s Cup having taken place before the first Olympics in 1896.

Sir Ben made sailing history last year when he helped bring Oracle Team USA back from the brink in the America’s Cup to beat Team New Zealand by 44 seconds in the finale.

The Americans had been trailing 8-1, until Sir Ben was brought on board and instigated a dramatic turnaround.

If Sir Ben was to locate his racing team in Portsmouth, he would join the likes of Gosport-based sailor Alex Thomson, the holder of two world records and youngest skipper ever to win a round-the-world race.