HE is Britain’s greatest Olympic sailor.
Now Sir Ben Ainslie is set to launch a bid for sailing’s most prestigious prize – and he could be doing it from a base in Southampton.
The multiple Olympic gold medallist is preparing a British team to challenge for the America’s Cup.
The 37-year-old is looking at a number of sites along the Solent to use as a base for his campaign this summer.
Today the Daily Echo can reveal that Southampton is among the locations in the running.
It would be a major coup for Southampton, which was known as the home of ocean racing when, between 1977 and 2001, the Volvo Ocean Race set off from the city.
Southampton has also hosted the prestigious Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, which started and finished in Ocean Village in 2012.
A spokesman for Sir Ben said: “There are a number of potential sites. It’s obviously going to be a long project, it’s going to have longevity, and it’s got to be the right site.
“We are looking at anywhere with good access to the sea. We should have more news in the next couple of weeks. At the moment it’s still to be confirmed. They are still researching and looking into options.
“The team have been looking along the south coast and would like to base themselves near the Solent.
“However, at the moment they are not at a stage to confirm where this base will be.”
It was in the 1996 Olympic Games that Lymington’s Sir Ben first represented Team GB, when he picked up silver in Atlanta.
Sixteen years later he picked up his fourth gold medal during the 2012 Olympic Games in London, making him the most decorated sailor in Olympic history.
Last year he continued his success when he helped Oracle Team USA to an amazing comeback victory over Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup decider in San Francisco.
The Americans had been trailing until Sir Ben was made skipper and brought about a dramatic turnaround from 8-1 behind to win the series nine races to eight.
After winning the cup he announced his ambition to lead a British team to win the America’s Cup – one of the few major sporting trophies this country has never won.
The first major challenge will be to raise the money to fund a challenge, which could run to tens of millions of pounds.