HUNDREDS of young people in Southampton can have a taste of sea life thanks new sailing academy taster sessions.

Associated British Ports (ABP) has donated £10,000 to Southampton Water Activities Centre (SWAC) in Floating Bridge Road to fund sailing sessions for inner-city school children aged eight to 16.

Should the children enjoy watersports and sailing at SWAC, which is run by sports exercise charity Active Nation, they can then have the chance to develop their skills and join ABP’s Southampton Sailing Academy.

The new academy is part of the £100million investment by ABP to create a new 500m container-handling berth at Southampton.

The facility was opened last week by Britain's greatest-ever Olympic sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie.

The four times gold medal winner also launched the new sailing academy, with enthusiastic youngsters from SWAC.

SWAC programme manager Jon Kirby said: “This will make a real difference to the lives of many local children and hopefully produce the next Ben Ainslie.

“It is a fantastic experience for them. It’s a taste of the freedom sailing offers and a chance to learn teamwork, communication skills and self-reliance.”

ABP director for Southampton Nick Ridehalgh added: “Southamp-ton Water is famed worldwide as a leisure marine destination.

“For many local youngsters it is a case of so near, but just out of reach. This new academy will allow Southampton children to enjoy sailing on Southampton Water, and we are proud to be able to make that happen.”