We’ve attracted one sailing hero – but now it appears we’re in danger of losing another.
After all the excitement of Sir Ben Ainslie and his America’s Cup campaign being based in Old Portsmouth, it’s worrying to discover that round-the-world sailor Alex Thomson may have to quit his HQ across the harbour.
At a time when Portsmouth is getting all the attention, with America’s Cup regattas set to bring huge crowds to Southsea seafront in 2015 and 2016, it would be a big blow to Gosport to lose Alex and his team.
Yet he reveals today that unless a site for improved facilities can be found, he could be forced to leave his home town.
A decision will have to be made within six months and we’re told other port cities are already alert to the advantages of having Alex Thomson Racing in their midst.
But this isn’t just about kudos. His firm employs 30 people at locations across the town including the Sanderson Business Centre, Premier Marinas and Haslar Marina and those jobs would also be lost to Gosport if he goes elsewhere to continue preparations for the 2016 Vendee Globe.
Alex says he doesn’t want to leave.
He’d much rather stay, but the problem is that he needs land on which to build better facilities.
Right now, admits Stewart Hosford, managing director of sports consultancy Five West and Alex Thomson Racing, what they have has ‘no wow factor’.
So how does Gosport hold on to Alex and his team?
Well, the answer seems simple. They think an area of Royal Clarence Yard could be ideal – and the Ministry of Defence is set to hand over the land to Gosport Borough Council.
The council hopes to create a marine business hub at the site, which would fit well with a sailing team.
Gosport can ill afford to lose the prestige, employment and money that such an enterprise brings.
But time is of the essence. So we urge the council to work with Alex right away to find a solution that will allow him to stay.