EMOTIONAL Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie has dedicated his emphatic America’s Cup World Series victory to the people of Portsmouth – and declared they were the key to his thrilling win.
The most successful Olympic sailor of all time steered Land Rover BAR to glory over a stunning weekend which firmly put Portsmouth on the international stage.
And civic leaders predict millions of pounds worth of economic benefits have been brought in as cup fever gripped the region.
Tens of thousands of spectators packed out the shoreline to roar on the home side, and their support proved vital as Sir Ben’s side came up against elite global teams eager to cause an upset.
The Brits snatched overall victory in the World Series by one point after picking up two wins on Saturday, and one win out of three races yesterday proved enough to see the home side be crowned the Portsmouth regatta winners for the second time.
They now sit on top of the World Series league table.
Speaking after his team’s victory from Southsea Castle, Sir Ben paid tribute to incredible residents for standing by him .
And he praised them for answering the call he issued through The News ahead of the weekend, urging the city to pack out Southsea and get behind him in his
quest to bring the America’s Cup back home.
He said: ‘The people of Portsmouth massively stepped up and answered the call to get behind the team and inspire us to victory.
‘The crowd have been incredible, the weather certainly played its part, and to be able to perform in front of the home crowd and win is just humbling.
‘It’s amazing how much it meant to them.
‘Their incredible support means so much to us.
‘We have been here in Portsmouth just over 12 months now, and for the team to be able to reward them like this is amazing.
Asked where the occasion ranked in his glittering career, Sir Ben said: ‘It’s a big moment.
‘It’s been a big week, what with my wife having a baby too.’
Cllr Donna Jones, Tory leader of Portsmouth City Council, is confident that the value of economic benefits brought to the city will exceed the £9m brought in from last year’s World Series.
Cllr Jones said: ‘This time we have had a full weekend of racing and the weather has been superb.
‘I anticipate the economic positive impact to the city will be between £12m to £13m.
‘That is something we can build on as the city prepares for the prospect of
staging the finals of the competition in 2021.’
She added: ‘To have the best sailor in the world, Ben Ainslie, in the city is incredible.’
America’s Cup World Series chairman Keith Mills was in jubilant mood – and said sailors had been on ‘cloud nine’ because of the outpouring of support from the home crowd.
Sir Keith said: ‘The sailors couldn’t believe it, the amount of support.
‘For sportsmen that go out and play football in the Premier League in front of 30,000 to 40,000 every week, that just comes as second nature.
‘But for sailors sailing in front of 50,000 to 60,000 people, that is hugely exciting.
‘Portsmouth has done itself proud.’
David Williams, Portsmouth City Council’s chief executive, said: ‘It’s tremendous publicity for the city, and great to see so many local people out enjoying themselves with friends.
‘But it also really puts Portsmouth on the world map.
‘A lot of potential investors have come to the city, to come and see what we do here for the first time.
‘And they have seen it in glorious conditions.’
THE race director of the America’s Cup has revealed she would love to see the World Series back in Portsmouth.
Leslie Greenhalgh told of the ambition to bring the competition back to the city for the third time following the stunning success of this weekend’s display.
Speaking to The News yesterday, Mrs Greenhalgh said: ‘There’s definitely the potential to bring it back to Portsmouth,
‘The feedback from all the teams is incredibly positive.
‘The sailors love to race somewhere where there’s such massive public support and interest.
‘The city of Portsmouth has, once again, been a phenomenal venue.’
She added the city’s glistening coastline and the fact spectators can get so close to the action are ‘huge positives’ for a future America’s Cup bid.
This weekend’s action was broadcast to millions, over 33 networks.
‘The impact this has had on the city’s profile, worldwide, has been huge,’ added Mrs Greenhalgh.
Praising the support of the thousands who turned out over the weekend, she said: ‘Their support over the entire weekend has just been phenomenal.
‘The weather makes a big difference and this year it was just so good.’
PORTSMOUTH has once again proven it is the home of the nation’s maritime sector.
So says Brian Johnson, spokesman on maritime issues for the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership.
Mr Johnson said the global attention the region has received through the World Series spectacle has reinforced the message that there is a real drive to make Portsmouth a premier maritime destination.
Mr Johnson said: ‘The World Series has demonstrated that we are the hub of the UK maritime industry.
‘We do everything in this area, we have got the leisure economy, the Royal Navy, a port, carriers and cruise ships, we do it all here.
‘While other areas like Merseyside have cruise ships, they don’t have much of a leisure industry.
‘Yet we have all parts of the leisure industry.’
Mr Johnson added: ‘This event has got the world’s attention; and that’s really encouraging when we’re trying to attract potential investors.
‘Plus we’re trying to attract people in the Science, Technology and Maths subjects (STEM).
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘This is now an established event, and it’s very noticeable that we are now able to lever so much more for the city. ‘I have listened to investors and potential partners who have come this weekend to talk about their aspirations for the city.
‘It’s like the whole city has been down on the seafront. It’s bringing in money and helping our economic regeneration.’
SAILING fans in Portsmouth have been hailed as some of the globe’s best by World Series’ hosts.
Presenter and commentator of this weekend’s contest, Tucker Thompson has praised the people of Portsmouth for their phenomenal support.
Speaking to The News moments after the prize giving ceremony finished, the American said: ‘Portsmouth was clearly one of the best venues of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series.
‘This is the only venue that we’ve returned to for a second time and it really shows. The fans here are just phenomenal. They’re some of the best, if not the best, we have ever seen.’
The Race Village, in Southsea, was packed with screaming fans, who cheered as Sir Ben Ainslie picked up the trophy.
The event’s co-host, Andy Green – himself a former match racer – added the city’s pride of its maritime history shone through.
‘The history of Portsmouth and the passion of the fans had for it showed today.
‘The fans were celebrating now having a real chance to make history after 165 years and take the America’s Cup home.’
Earlier in the day, Sir Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR team stormed to victory in Portsmouth and now top the series’ tables by one point.
Team members were all presented with winners’ medals by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and bags by event sponsors Louis Vuitton.