IAN WALKER has backed Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing to succeed in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Portsmouth event from July 23 to July 26.
The Warsash skipper, who competed at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games alongside Ainslie, believes his countryman has what it takes to bring the cup home to Britain for the first time.
Last month, Walker became the first British skipper to claim overall victory in the Volvo Ocean Race, triumphing in the nine-month, 38,000 mile round-the-world contest.
After leading Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing to success in the overall race, Walker and his crew then clinched the In-Port Race Series title aboard their racing yacht Azzam.
And Walker is confident more British on-the-water success will follow in Portsmouth later this month, with the Portsmouth Camber-based BAR team set to face off against five rivals in an exhilarating, action-packed three days of racing.
Winners of the 2013 edition, Team Oracle USA, will start as favourites, with the likes of Emirates Team New Zealand, Artemis Racing, Softbank Team Japan and Groupama Team France providing the competition.
With each team currently putting the final touches to the AC45s they will be racing – and with Emirates Team New Zealand regularly spotted training on the Solent – tension is rising as the event rapidly approaches.
Walker said: ‘I grew up on the Olympic team with Ben Ainslie.
‘He’s been an inspiration and probably done more for promoting sailing in Britain than anyone else.
‘The British team is really strong and the race should be a real inspiration to those watching.
‘I’m looking forward to going back to Portsmouth and watching the World Series. I’ll be there when the racing is on.’
Walker was skipper of Great Britain’s last America’s Cup entry in 2003 and he also served as Iain Percy’s tactician aboard +39 Challenge during the 2003 America’s Cup challenger series.
And two-time Olympic silver medallist Walker hasn’t ruled out the prospect of returning to compete in the America’s Cup in the future. He added: ‘The America’s Cup is a young man’s game now.
‘You’re talking about two or three people who can sail surrounded by the fittest, youngest, strongest people on the planet to turn the winches and make it all happen.
‘I don’t think there’s space for a balding, offshore sailor on the racing catamarans.
‘But that’s not to say a little bit of knowledge here and there couldn’t be of assistance to some of those teams.’
Alongside the main event, there will be a range of on-the-water entertainment taking place, including a kitesurfing display and an International Moth Invitational Regatta, featuring two Stokes Bay sailors.
Jason Belben and newly-crowned national champion Chris Rashley, who both sail from the Gosport club, will compete against four other world-class Moth sailors including Mike Lennon, Rob Greenhalgh, Dylan Fletcher and Simon Hiscocks.
The Moths will race between 11am and 12.30pm each day before the main event gets under way.