THE Duke of Edinburgh has taken to the waters to watch Sir Ben Ainslie prepare in his bid to bring back the America's Cup to Britain for the first time in 165 years.

Philip was the guest of the Land Rover BAR team at their headquarters in Portsmouth in his role as Admiral of the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS), whose subsidiary Royal Yacht Squadron Racing is the official challenging club of the British team.

Following a tour of the high-tech centre, the 95-year-old boarded a small boat to witness one of the practice races ahead of the America's Cup World Series (ACWS), which is taking place off the seafront of Portsmouth this weekend.

Sir Ben's team is hoping to win the series for a second year running to earn points towards the finals in Bermuda next year.

The Duke was met at the centre by Martin Whitmarsh, chief executive officer of Land Rover BAR, and Sir Keith Mills, chairman of the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series.

Mr Whitmarsh said: "The RYS is the most prestigious yacht club in the world and the support and advice we receive from their members means a great deal.

"We are delighted to have Prince Philip in his role as Admiral of the Royal Yacht Squadron visiting the team base and watching the racing in Portsmouth."

The event will see a further royal visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who will also watch the racing from the water before attending the prize-giving.

William and Kate were special guests at last year's event, which attracted 250,000 spectators but was curtailed by heavy rain.

The Duchess, who is the patron of the 1851 Trust, the Land Rover BAR team charity to encourage young people into sailing and the maritime industry, wrote in a foreword to the ACWS programme: "I am sure you will join William and me in wishing Sir Ben and the team the best of luck.

"We all remain hopeful that it might be the year we see the America's Cup coming home after 165 years."

Sir Ben revealed on Wednesday that he and his sports presenter wife Georgie, 38, were celebrating the birth of their first child Bellatrix, who is named after a goddess of war.

The 39-year-old said the support of the home crowds attending the event over the weekend was a boost to his team.

He said: "The biggest advantage for us is the home crowd. You can hear them from the water and that's what makes it so special to be racing in Portsmouth."

The America's Cup race dates back to 1851 when a group of US businessmen visiting for Prince Albert's Great Exhibition challenged a British team to a race around the Isle of Wight which they won and the Brits have since failed to win back the trophy, affectionately known as the "Auld Mug".