IT IS ONE of the world’s most prestigious – and toughest – sailing events.
But the Clipper Race, which finished on Saturday, will not be returning to Southampton any time soon.
After failing to bid for this year’s event, council chiefs say there is not enough money in the coffers to bid to host the world-class race.
The price tag to host the event stands at half a million pounds – a mere tenth of the money the event is expected to generate for the local economy.
But the decision has brought criticism from business leaders and sailing world enthusiasts who say it is another blow for the city that once prided itself on being known as the ‘Home of Ocean Sailing’.
Instead it was London and mayor Boris Johnson that enjoyed the glory of hosting the spectacular finish of the event on Saturday, with the boats sailing under Tower Bridge and past the mayor’s glittering city hall.
It comes after Southampton lost out to Portsmouth in the battle to host Sir Ben Ainslie’s Americas Cup base.
However, there will be one prestigious race event taking place in Southampton this year that might help ease the pain of losing the Clipper.
The Global Ocean Race will see a fleet of yachts set off from the PSP Southampton Boat Show in September on a 30,000-mile journey that will see them visit five continents over the course of eight gruelling months.
Hosting it will also cost the council nothing after they were offered it by race organisers last year.
Speaking about the failure to bid for the Clipper Race, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Dunn said the city has missed out on an opportunity.
He said: “I think it is a shame. I understand the financial position, but it would have certainly helped bring visitors and wealth to the economy.
“I think every time we do not go for things like this it undermines our creditability.”
Even more damning was sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the most famous name in the marine business and Clipper Race founder.
He said Southampton had great facilities and was capable of hosting such an event, but it was up to the city to bid.
But council leader Cllr Simon Letts said cutbacks meant priorities were with frontline services.
He said: “We have a big black hole and if I went to the public and said a private sector group want to host an event for one weekend for £250,000, I think there would be questions asked.”
But Conservative opposition leader, Royston Smith, believes the city may now struggle to attract top-drawer events.
He said: “The council may not have the money, but we know that the Clipper Race brings economic benefits so we need to be a bit more creative.
“This is an opportunity for the council, the chamber and businesses, as opposed to just having the attitude that ‘we won’t get it so why bother’.”