February was a big month for us all at Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR), with HRH The Duchess of Cambridge and then David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, both visiting.
The Duchess attended the team’s launch back in June and is Royal Patron of the 1851 Trust, our official charity. Inevitably, a visit to Portsmouth by the Duchess created a lot of national press interest. She seems to have a genuine passion for sailing and is keen on supporting the team and the project. We are very fortunate to have her involvement and hopefully that interest will continue as we keep developing up until the America’s Cup.
Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images
We started with a private visit to the team’s current offices and took her through a presentation on our activity and goals for the year. She was very interested in both the sailing perspective and the design approach. We also showed her the simulator, a big technical project for us and the result of hard work by James Roche. The Duchess didn’t go on the motion platform, but did use the Oculus Rift goggles to see what it looked like inside the virtual world. She was really impressed by the level of detail in the simulation – anybody would be, it’s an amazing piece of technology.
After that we went down to Portsmouth to the construction site for our new headquarters. We wanted to show her the mural painted around the hoardings in an 1851 Trust art project with local schools. This has been a great way of highlighting the link we want with the local schoolchildren from Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight as well as all along the Solent.
The Duchess finished off the mural for everyone, and that was a great addition. We were lucky that the weather played ball at this time of year and it worked out so well. At the striking Spinnaker Tower, not far away, we talked about progress with the 1851 Trust, and how that will tie in with the new building.
She also had the opportunity to meet more schoolchildren from the area and get their thoughts on the project. This was very positively received and has given us a lot to think about now as we develop the Visitor Centre. We hope to attract plenty more schools and young people through the venue and having the support of the Duchess will make a huge difference – the children were all so dazzled to meet her, she can’t help but inspire them to get involved in our sport.
Just a few days later, the Prime Minister came down to visit the headquarters, and this coincided with the day that we received our ISO 20121 certification. This is an Olympic-inspired, international-standard management system that provides a framework for us to deliver our sustainability goals.
Soon we should be moving into our brand new premises – and the America’s Cup World Series starts just a couple of months later. If you haven’t already got your tickets booked, hopefully it’s not too late. Come and support us to see what we’re up to in Portsmouth, then on to what should be a fantastic weekend of sport.