No bribery in­volved in pick­ing Ben’s base

Macclesfield Express - - MOTORS -

SIR Ben Ainslie has de­nied claims that he was bribed into build­ing his Amer­ica’s Cup sail­ing base in Portsmouth in­stead of Southamp­ton.

The Mac­cles­field-born sailor has re­de­vel­oped a wa­ter­front site at The Cam­ber in Old Portsmouth af­ter the White­hall award con­trib­uted to the cost by giv­ing him a £7.5 mil­lion hand­out.

The move has been met with back­lash by some, with Southamp­ton City Coun­cil leader Si­mon Letts lead­ing the protests at a re­cent meet­ing.

The Labour group leader faced a ques­tion from Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil­lor Paul O’Neill, who asked: “As Southamp­ton used to be called the home of ocean sail­ing, does the coun­cil re­gret not hav­ing the vi­sion and de­ter­mi­na­tion to push more ef­fec­tively for this?”

But Cllr Letts replied: “What was hap­pen­ing was that the Portsmouth dock­yard was clos­ing and min­is­ters run­ning around in a blind panic think­ing of ways to show they cared about the city.”

He said Sir Ben was “bribed by gov­ern­ment” with the fund­ing, be­fore adding: “On grounds of log­i­cal sail­ing ar­gu­ments Southamp­ton was not to be the best on of­fer.”

Sir Ben’s en­ter­prise – Land Rover BAR – have re­vealed their sur­prise at the com­ments made by Letts, an­nounc­ing that the money was not de­pen­dent on Portsmouth be­ing cho­sen for the site.

Speak­ing to the Southern Daily Echo, A spokesman said: “In De­cem­ber 2013, af­ter se­cur­ing the ini­tial fund­ing to start the Amer­ica’s Cup cam­paign from the team’s found­ing in­vestors, we im­me­di­ately started look­ing for a per­ma­nent base in the UK, prefer­ably in the Solent re­gion.

“Af­ter an ex­ten­sive search, three sites were iden­ti­fied as fit­ting the team’s op­er­a­tional cri­te­ria – The Cam­ber, land next to the cruise ship ter­mi­nal in Southamp­ton Dock­yard and Cen­te­nary Quay in Wool­ston.

“The team car­ried out a thor­ough eval­u­a­tion of the sites.

“It was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion, with each of them offering great po­ten­tial.”

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