HAMPSHIRE is to play a major role in an ambitious £80m.

project to build a spectacular new “UK Flagship’’, the pride of the nation, which will sail to all corners of the globe.

The flagship aims to be the largest and most modern square-rigged education , adventure training and research sailing ship in the world when she is launched in 2016.

Masterminding the design of the 650ft long vessel is Colin Mudie, a Royal Designer for Industry, based in Lymington and recognised as one of the leading naval architects of the age.

No decision has yet been made where the home port of this magnificent tall ship will be, but other Mudiedesigned vessels are regular sights in the port of Southampton .

Backed by all the major political parties, the UK Flagship will not be a replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia, de-commissioned 15 years ago.

Instead it will be a floating maritime university, a prestigious showcase for Britain’s manufacturing and commercial sectors, the very best in conference facilities, while also giving young people practical, sail training experience on a squarerigged, tall ship.

It is expected the vessel, which will have it own deepsea submersible, laboratories, storage tanks, and diving platform, will in the future work closely with organisations such as Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre, a collaboration between the Natural Environment Research Council and the School of Ocean and Earth Science at the city’s university.

Hampshire’s deputy Lord Lieutenant Maldwin Drummond, trustee and board member of the national charity UK Flagship Project, said: “The ship will be a rallying point for the nation, she will represent the values of equality, pride, opportunity though education, achievement, and endeavour.

“The project will be aimed at young people, with the intention of helping them to explore and experience the world around them, while gaining recognised qualifications and valuable life skills.’’ As well as allowing youngsters access to qualifications, the ship will also host her own world-class maritime research facilities and act as a true “UK Flagship’’ representing Great Britain at major international events around the world.

However, the priority of UK Flagship will be its educational and charitable work to improve the lives and employment prospects of young people.

The ship’s operation will not be reliant on any public money, prompting the Prime Minister David Cameron to describe the ship as “a great new national asset at absolutely no cost to the public purse’’.

As a major appeal for funds is launched, Flagship UK has already had promises of support from leading businessmen and philanthropists – one has already pledged £5m – together with offers of funding from Commonwealth countries such as Canada.

Mr Mudie, a life president on the RNLI, said: “I have been working on this project ever since Britannia was taken out of service.

“The original design has been extended by a further 100 feet, and all the rigging has been raised 65 feet above the deck, on a series of giant plinths, to create the open space required for all the scientific equipment.’’ Final adjustments to the design of the ship are now being undertaken but the trust is confident the vessel will be ready to enter service in four years time.

Each of the ship’s 27 vast sails will contain solar cells to generate all the vessel’s electricity, two 32-seater buses, together with dinghies and boats can be stored in the hold, while there will be enough on-board accommodation for 200 youngsters and a helicopter landing pad is incorporated at the stern.

Cash raised by the appeal will not only fund the building of the ship, but also provide backing for educational, sea-based skills from as early as next year.