HAMPSHIRE'S Olympic sailing superstars including four-time gold medallist Ben Ainslie and Paralympic champion Helena Lucas have officially opened the PSP Southampton Boat Show , the biggest on-water Boat Show in Europe.

Lymington 's Ainslie, the greatest Olympic sailor of all time, and Southampton gold medal winner Lucas were joined by members of Great Britain's Olympic and Paralympic sailing and rowing teams to cut the ribbon this morning.

The doors to the 44th edition of the show were thrown open at 11.15am, marking the start of nine days dedicated to all things nautical.

Shortly after the opening, Formula 1 star Jenson Button flew into Mayflower Park by helicopter with pundit and former driver Eddie Jordan to launch the latest luxury powerboats from Poole-based Sunseeker.

The show, one of Southampton's flagship events, features more than 1,000 boats and 500 exhibitors from all over the world.

More than 350 boats are on show on the purpose-built marina that boats more than two kilometres of pontoons.

Attractions over the course of the show, which runs until September 23, include Second World War defence launch Medusa, pilot cutters Amelie and Jolie Brise, 100ft traditional trawler Leader and tall ship Stavros S Niarchos.

A host of Hampshire sailing celebrities are due to visit the show, including solo sailor Mike Golding, 2000 Olympic silver medallists Ian Walker and Mark Covell and champion powerboat racer Shelley Jory -Leigh.

Show organisers are also hoping to get 10,000 people out on the water with their Try-A-Boat and Get-A-Float programmes.

Chef Mark Sargeant, Gordon Ramsay's former right hand man, will be hosting the Sea Kitchen Theatre, a series of cookery masterclasses and daily tastings.

Sponsor PSP today announced it would continue its backing of the event for the next two years at least.