Sir Ben Ainslie: America’s Cup base would be worth millions to Portsmouth

Sir Ben Ainslie
Sir Ben Ainslie

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OLYMPIC hero Sir Ben Ainslie has declared he wants Portsmouth to be the home of his America’s Cup sailing base – and believes it will pump millions of pounds into the region.

The sailor, the most successful in Olympic history, believes The Camber is the perfect spot to locate and train the British team gunning to win the historic competition on behalf of the UK for the first time in 150 years.

Sir Ben said the presence of his race base in Old Portsmouth could create 1,000 new jobs and pump more than £44m into the local economy – which happened in Auckland, New Zealand, when its national racing team moved there.

And he’s urging residents to get behind his bid and make it a reality.

The four-time Olympic gold medallist told The News: ‘If you look at a report about Team New Zealand and the impact it had on a major city like Auckland, it created 1,000 jobs and $88m (£44.47m) went into benefiting the local economy.

‘I absolutely think that could happen in Portsmouth.

‘It’s a good comparison because it’s a city of similar size, and the (British) team for the America’s Cup will get a lot of public support.

Sir Ben said Portsmouth was his preferred option over other sites that have been considered in Hampshire, such as Woolston, because of its rich maritime industry and level of footfall created by the ferry port.

He was due to give a presentation last night about the base proposals at the Royal Naval Club and Royal Albert Yacht Club, in Old Portsmouth, but the event was cancelled due to the number of people who turned up to listen and give their views for and against them.

Another meeting is due to be held at a bigger venue next Monday.

David Lloyd, 50, of Broad Street, whose property overlooks the proposed site, said: ‘I think the plans are fantastic, because of what it will bring to the city as a whole.’

But Pat Huxtable, 60, said the designs looked like ‘two massive collapsed barrage balloons.’

Sir Ben said: ‘We are here to do something really great for the community here in Portsmouth.’

‘I understand that local residents have got fears about a building of this size, but you have to weigh that up against the benefits.’

Jonathan Goring, the team base project director for Ben Ainslie Racing, said the fact the Camber site was so close to the sea was a factor in it being in the running.

The proposals are subject to planning permission being granted by the city council.

Leader says base would bring immeasurable benefits

THE leader of Portsmouth City Council says she will listen to people’s views before making a final judgement on Sir Ben Ainslie’s race base plans.

Talking about the design for the proposals at the Camber, Councillor Donna Jones said: ‘The structure is large, but also an iconic-looking building.

‘The positive impact on Portsmouth and the wider area if Ben Ainslie’s team were based here would be immeasurable.

‘However, we need to take everyone’s views into consideration.’

‘Centre of excellence’ would train sailors

A CENTRE of excellence specialising in teaching young people how to sail and design yachts is part of the ambitious Ben Ainslie race base plans.

The sailing legend wants to establish an apprenticeship scheme which would ensure the site is sustainable and creates stars of the future.

Participants in the programme would also get to learn how to train sailors.

Jonathan Goring, the team base project director for Ben Ainslie Racing, said of the plans: ‘The whole idea of the base is for it to be sustainable and a place where young people can come through it and train.

‘Training will be a fundamental part of our programme and that training is in sailing.

‘That’s how Ben started off.

‘Ben would not have been as successful if he had not had people nurturing him, so it’s very important to him that we employ young people to get involved in this amazing sport and amazing infrastructure.’

Woolston is the back-up plan should planning permission be turned down by the city council.

David Williams, the council’s chief executive, said: ‘Potentially the base could be a great thing for the city.

‘But clearly some of those living close to it are opposed to it – but not all of them are.

‘It will be for the planning committee to make the decision.’