Duchess Kate hailed ‘an inspiration to children across Portsmouth’ on day she visits Olympic sailor’s Camber headquarters

The Duchess of Cambridge is presented with flowers by Oliver Ewins a pupil from St Edmund's Catholic School''Picture: Allan Hutchings (160418-616)
The Duchess of Cambridge is presented with flowers by Oliver Ewins a pupil from St Edmund's Catholic School''Picture: Allan Hutchings (160418-616)
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THE Duchess of Cambridge has been hailed as a true inspiration to young people in the Portsmouth area.

She was praised as she made a visit to the city to celebrate the work of a charity helping students to take up careers in sailing, science and engineering.

The incredible thing about the Duchess, is that when she meets young people, she obviously loves engaging with them.

Claire Locke, vice-chairwoman of the 1851 Trust

Kate spent time at Sir Ben Ainslie’s sailing headquarters in Old Portsmouth to unveil new facilities, which the 1851 Trust, of which the Duchess is a patron, will use to teach children and tie that in with the story of the America’s Cup.

Kate also presented a stunning painting of Sir Ben’s team out in the Solent – which she helped to create – to mark the big occasion.

City leaders believe Kate’s endorsement of the trust – affiliated with Sir Ben’s Land Rover BAR enterprise – will encourage thousands of pupils to work even harder and secure lucrative jobs.

Escorted by security and police, the Duchess arrived at the base to be met by VIP guests.

They included Sir Ben, his team’s co-founder Sir Keith Mills, council leader Donna Jones and the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr David Fuller. She then chatted to youngsters involved in the Portsmouth Sailing Project.

The Duchess was all smiles as she posed for pictures.

Then she was whisked upstairs to the base’s new Tech Deck on the second floor – a hub with simulators enabling visitors to get a taste of life on Sir Ben’s race boat.

It is filled with boards containing information on the science behind how the team’s boats work on the water.

Kate, joined by Sir Ben and Sir Keith, was talked through the history of the America’s Cup and the journey the Portsmouth-based sailing team has taken since setting up in the city.

She then got on board one of the hulls belonging to the team’s latest T2 testing boat and was given a quickfire lesson on how it’s operated.

Kate then watched a pupil from Landport’s St Edmund’s Catholic School – the first school given the opportunity to test the new facility – try out the Grinding Challenge.

It is a simulator involving a piece of kit from the boat that enables you to learn how fuel is injected into the engines so the boat can move.

After finding out more about the materials used to build the boat and the equipment crews wear, Kate sat with pupils being taught about science and technology in the 1851 Trust’s new digital education centre.

There was a huge round of applause as the Duchess unveiled a piece of artwork she put some of her own creativity into to celebrate the centre’s opening.

The occasion came on the same day the trust launched two new sailing projects – with one aiming to get at least 1,000 more youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds to try out the sport.

Claire Locke, vice-chairwoman of the 1851 Trust, was delighted with the Duchess’s endorsement.

She said: ‘We are thrilled.

‘The 1851 Trust has kicked off its sailing and educational projects and it’s all about using the power of the America’s Cup to inspire the next generation to take up careers in sailing and the maritime industry.

‘The Duchess is playing a hugely important role in that and is an inspiration to young people.

‘The incredible thing about the Duchess is that when she meets young people, she obviously loves engaging with them. By lending her support, it’s an incredibly vital way of highlighting the importance of science and technology.’

BAR’s head of strength and conditioning, Ben Williams, who also spoke to Kate about the work he does with the team, said: ‘We are trying to educate as many people in the science, technology, engineering and maths ethos as we can, and having somebody like the Duchess as one of our patrons helps to expand our global outreach, so we can send out that message.

‘If anybody could sit down and choose their patron, Kate would definitely be in your top three.’

OVERWHELMED pupils say it was a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ meeting the Duchess of Cambridge.

Kate sat in on a class at the base’s new education centre with students from St Edmund’s Catholic School, who were learning about the technology behind Sir Ben’s America’s Cup boats and other science-related topics.

Those who sat on the same table as the Duchess said it was an amazing experience.

Mame Anta, 12, said: ‘It felt amazing to see her.

‘I had never met her and I couldn’t believe how close I was to her.

‘She was very friendly and very pretty.

‘She took a real interested in what we are learning about and she explained how different boats were when she was our age.’

David Martin, 12, said: ‘It was exciting. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.’

Ainhoa Lenti, 12, said: ‘It was amazing – definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. She is a really nice person.

‘The education centre will help lots of people learn more about sailing and how engineering works. It’s something I’m interested in.’

OLYMPIC sailor Sir Ben Ainslie said the Duchess was a ‘natural’ onboard the team’s test boat out in the Solent.

Sir Ben and his crew took Kate out for a training session ride following a busy morning touring the Land Rover BAR headquarters.

Her Royal Highness set off as crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of her getting on the T1 test boat.

She even took control and steered the boat out on the race course ahead of the America’s Cup World Series off Portsmouth’s shores from July 22 to 24.

The team reached speeds of 33 knots (38 mph) in perfect, but ‘demanding conditions.’ Sir Ben said: ‘It was fantastic to take our Royal Patron on-board T1 during our training session on the Solent. We gave her the helm and we were flying along at 33 knots, out on the ACWS Portsmouth race course, you can tell she has done a lot of sailing, she was a natural on-board.

‘It is also great to have The Duchess’ support with opening the team’s new ‘Tech Deck’ and Education Centre.

‘A lot of work has gone into developing this facility for young people and we hope to inspire more young people to consider opportunities and careers within STEM subjects and the marine sector in the future.’

World Series event director Leslie Greenhalgh says momentum is building ahead of the summer spectacle. She said: ‘There’s a real buzz in the city, I can definitely sense it now.’