OLYMPIAN Sir Ben Ainslie has issued an impassioned plea for the people of Portsmouth to pour out their enthusiasm and spur him on to America’s Cup glory.
The sailing athlete says he’s banking on the home crowd lining Southsea’s shoreline this weekend for the sailing spectacle to inspire him to success.
And the Land Rover BAR skipper is calling for the public to invoke the same immense spirit shown by the Fratton faithful on Pompey match days to enable his side to put on an epic spectacle in the Solent.
Speaking to The News following a press conference marking the return of the America’s Cup World Series to Portsmouth yesterday, Sir Ben said he also wants to put on a performance like no other as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to the city for standing by him.
Sir Ben said: ‘This is our last opportunity to race in front of the home crowd.
‘Portsmouth has been so good to us over the last 18 months, in terms of welcoming us into the community and supporting us through our race programme.
‘The team being based here has been a real boost to the city.
‘The home crowd support is so important to us; it’s so important to us to put on a good showing.
‘If we can win in front of the home crown it will be a real thank you for the support.
‘The home support is a massive thing as a competitor, I experienced it at London 2012 and at last year’s World Series.
‘I would absolutely love to see the people of the city show that same level of support seen at Fratton Park at the World Series this weekend.
‘We want a huge turnout, and for everyone to get behind the home team.
‘For us it’s about bringing the cup back home.’
World Series event boss Sir Keith Mills is confident this year’s spectacle will blow last year’s out of the water – and predicts up to 50,000 spectators a day will pour on to Southsea Common and an additional 20,000 will watch the action from the Race Village around Southsea Castle.
It was also revealed at a media briefing at Land Rover BAR’s Camber headquarters that 3,000 spectator boats will head out to the Solent on both Saturday and Sunday for the competitive racing.
Sir Keith said: ‘We are confident the changes we have made this time will work.
‘We have a much larger area for people to watch the racing and have a picnic without the requirement for a ticket.
‘We also have a much more active Race Village this time, in terms of level of ticketing to give those who want to get up close to the action to see what is happening, to enable people to get close to the sailors and look at the technical aspects behind the cup.
‘We believe we have got the balance right this year.
‘We expect 20,000 visitors a day in the Race Village area, and hope to get a capacity of 40,000 to 50,000 on the common.
‘That would be fantastic.’
Today officially marks the first day of racing on the water. The ticketed race village opens to the public from 11am and the America’s Cup trophy will arrive in style via a landing craft by Southsea Castle at 11.15am.
Then the Red Arrows display team will take to the skies above the Solent from midday.
A set of practice races takes place between 1pm and 3pm.
The action will be a warm-up to competitive races on Saturday and Sunday which count for points.
Spectators can turn up at any time to Southsea Common for free. Portsmouth City Council is putting up a big screen so families can see teams battle it out on the water.
COMPETITORS say they would love to upset the home side as pressure mounts ahead of the competitive cup races.
Speaking at a team press conference, Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill declared he would love to get a win over former sailing colleague Sir Ben.
The US and Brit teams are tied in second place with 285 points, while Emirates Team New Zealand command first place with 295 points.
Swedish side Artemis Racing are in third with 262 points, fourth are Soft Bank Team Japan with 259 and in last place are Groupama Team France, with 234.
Oracle Team USA, the current holders of the America’s Cup, believe they have something to prove after a lacklustre showing in the Chicago World Series last month.
Jimmy said: ‘It would be great to get the win over Sir Ben and his team.
‘We would like to get a good result here. Ben will have the home town support, and there will be a lot of energy to draw from that, but that’s motivation for us as well.’
But Sir Ben said he was ‘fired up’ and ready to perform on the grand stage. He said: ‘We absolutely want to replicate our success from last year.
‘This is the last time we race in the UK before next year, so the guys are fired up to put on a great show.’
Artemis say they’ve finally found a ‘good formula’ which they aim to put into action this weekend.