Blog: Sails set for success
Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, opened his America’s Cup campaign in July 2015 with a triumphant performance off Southsea seafront in Portsmouth.
Almost 250,000 spectators saw his Land Rover BAR team sail to victory in the preliminary Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sir Ben said. “The amount of people that came out on the water, on the shore line, supporting the event and supporting us as a home team…all of us as a team were completely blown away. The crowds were really inspirational and we could hear the cheering on board, which gave us a huge boost.”
Portsmouth hosted another World Series event in 2016. “And then,” said Sir Ben, “we hope it will host the America’s Cup race itself. That’s because if the team wins the cup in 2017, we’ll have the right to host the next race.”
Sir Ben is determined to bring the America’s Cup home for the first time since 1851. But his team’s decision to locate in Portsmouth means a significant prize for the city and the region too.
“We expect the World Series races to bring in tens of millions of pounds into the city’s economy,” he said. “If Portsmouth goes on to host the actual America’s Cup, it would be massive for the city. Suddenly, you’re talking about hundreds of millions of pounds of investment.”
Land Rover BAR’s Portsmouth base was set up with a package of support from the government, which believes it has potential to bring significant economic benefits to the UK, particularly the city and the wider area.
Announcing the package, it pointed to a report on Team New Zealand, suggesting its base in Auckland created 1,000 jobs and brought an $88 million boost to the local economy.
The then Prime Minister David Cameron said: “It will not only build on Portsmouth’s global reputation as a centre of marine and maritime excellence but will also deliver a real sporting and economic boost to the UK.”
The team’s presence in Portsmouth is expected to lead to significant new innovation and investment in the marine and maritime sector, which contributes more than a fifth of the value of the Solent area economy. It is also expected to boost business growth through engagement with local companies in its supply chain.
Sir Ben said: “The government and the council were both very supportive and encouraging of us being based in Portsmouth. We found the local community incredibly supportive. They could see the benefits of the team being based there, not just for the economy, but also for what it means in terms of heritage.
“The city’s maritime history was a key reason for choosing to locate in the city. Plus, logistically, the links to London and the airports are very, very good. “A lot of effort is going into the area to push it forward as a centre for technical excellence and maritime excellence and to boost the marine and maritime industry, and that’s very important for us as a team.”