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Kate at the helm as she sails the Solent with Sir Ben Ainslie

Published 20/05/2016

The Duchess of Cambridge took the helm of a racing yacht for a thrilling high-speed ride with Olympic legend Sir Ben Ainslie.

Kate donned safety gear including a helmet and lifejacket to join the multiple gold medal-winner aboard his 45ft catamaran T1 for a training circuit in the Solent.

Earlier she had wowed as she recycled a sleek nautical-themed Alexander McQueen outfit for her visit to the Land Rover BAR racing team in nearby Portsmouth.

She previously wore the outfit on a June 2014 visit to Bletchley Park. It was the third time that the duchess has visited the BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing) base, having dropped by before the centre was opened and again during the first round of the America's Cup World Series which was held in the city last July before being cut short by heavy winds and rain.

Crowds gathered to watch as the duchess was transferred on to the catamaran - a trial model as the team develops its racing vessel - for the hour-long trip from Portsmouth Harbour to near the Isle of Wight.

Kate, a keen sailor, could be seen helping with the rigging as the catamaran was preparing to sail before she took the controls, the role normally taken by skipper Sir Ben.

As the catamaran reached a top speed of 34 knots, the catamaran first of all raised up on to one of the hulls before rising up into the air where it skimmed along with both hulls in the air and only the foils remaining in the water.

The support vessels struggled to keep up with the catamaran as it flew over the choppy water as it headed back to Portsmouth from the Island.

Kate and her team of four professional sailors, including Sir Ben, carried out three loops of the route before heading back to base.

Before taking to the water, the duchess toured the Land Rover BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing) base at Old Portsmouth. In her role as royal patron of the 1851 Trust sailing charity, Kate launched two initiatives aimed at involving children and young adults from diverse backgrounds in sailing and the technology of the sport.

Kate first of all launched the 1851 Trust's sailing project being run in partnership with the UKSA and the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation and see the boats which will be used.

She then officially opened the new 'Tech Deck' Education Centre at the base, which showcases the sport's innovation, technology and sustainability for schools and community groups.

The Tech Deck allows visitors to experience the design principles, construction and on-going operation of the team's America's Cup boats first-hand.

During her tour, Kate was given a demonstration of a grinder, the turning device needed to pump the sails in and out, by 12-year-old Oliver Matthews after which she congratulated him for his hard work which had brought the pupil of St Edmund's Catholic School in a sweat.

Speaking afterwards, he said: "I went on the grinding machine and grinder for Kate to show how hard it was and it was very tiring.

"She said to me it looked very tiring and well done."

The duchess was then shown a bone conductor radio kit which transmits sound through a pad placed on the forehead.

After trying it out, Kate said: "It's fantastic, it's as if it comes straight through your head."

The duchess then joined year seven students from St Edmund's School, in Portsmouth, who were taking part in a #STEMCREW digital workshop activity on i-Pads which aims to encourage young people to engage in Stem (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) subjects by focusing on the America's Cup challenge.

She then unveiled a painting to mark the opening of the centre which was a section of a mural which she contributed to on an earlier visit to the base as it was under construction.

Speaking after returning to base, Sir Ben said he had been "amazed" at how well Kate had taken the helm and he would happily give her a place on his team.

He said: "I think the duchess had a great time, it certainly looked that way. It was perfect sailing conditions, we had about 15 knots of wind, we were going up to 33 or 34 knots which is close to 40mph.

"The duchess was steering the boat for about half of the session and I think the guys were all really impressed with how well she had sailed, she had done a bit of sailing before.

"We had a great sail, it was a blast and she thoroughly enjoyed it."

He continued: "There were a few moments from the front of the boat that she was a better helms person than I am so I wasn't too happy about that so you never know I might give her a place.

"It was great to have the duchess supporting the team as patron of the 1851 Trust and supporting our America's Cup bid and it's a real buzz when she is here sailing and joining us."

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