No bribery involved in picking Ben’s base
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.”