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William and Kate denied America's Cup thrills as high winds take hold

Published 26/07/2015

The Duke (second left) and Duchess of Cambridge talks to guests at the team technical area at the Royal Navy Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth, during a visit on the second day of the opening leg of the America's Cup World Series being staged in waters off Portsmouth. Luke MacGregor/PA Wire.
The Duke (second left) and Duchess of Cambridge talks to guests at the team technical area at the Royal Navy Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth, during a visit on the second day of the opening leg of the America's Cup World Series being staged in waters off Portsmouth. Luke MacGregor/PA Wire.
The Duchess of Cambridge with Sir Ben Ainslie during a visit to London's National Maritime Museum
Sir Ben Ainslie is taking part in the America's Cup series in Portsmouth

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's hopes of watching Sir Ben Ainslie's crew clinch another America's Cup World Series race win were dashed by the weather.

Dangerously high winds and torrential rain meant two yacht races between six international teams in the Solent had to be cancelled.

But Kate made up for the disappointment by donning a pair of virtual reality simulator goggles when she toured the base of Sir Ben's team BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing) in Portsmouth.

The simulator did not move but gave Kate the sensation she was on the heaving deck of a boat in a race, and after the experience she said it felt "weird".

The royal couple had planned a day watching the yachts race, from land and at sea, and touring a festival staged for the four-day competition, but they had to scrap part of their itinerary and reschedule or scale down other events.

The royal couple arrived dressed for a day supporting the British sailor, wearing BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing) jackets with Duke of Cambridge and Duchess of Cambridge emblazoned on the back, and Kate was in leggings while William had dark jeans.

The Duchess, who spent part of her gap year in 2001 as a crew member on the Round the World Challenge boats in the Solent, joined Sir Ben in June last year when he formally launched Britain's bid to win the America's Cup for the first time.

She is a committed supporter of BAR and is also royal patron of the 1851 Trust, which works to inspire the next generation through sailing and the marine industry.

Sir Ben, the most successful sailor in Olympic history, hoped to skipper his team on the second day of the opening leg of the World Series but after marking preparations he had to give up when the racing was called off.

He said: "The English summer, you just can't count on it.

"Yesterday was the most amazing day of my sailing career. There were so many people out, everyone had a fantastic time.

"Today was a shame but we will get that sorted out and book the weather in for next year."

The America's Cup is international sport's oldest trophy, first staged in 1851 off the Isle of Wight, but it has not returned to British waters following that inaugural defeat.

Sir Ben, who has won four Olympic golds and a silver, was famously employed as a tactician during the last America's Cup race, helping the US Oracle team overturn an 8-1 deficit to beat New Zealand.

Points collected during the World Series determine who will challenge the US for the America's Cup which will be staged in Bermuda in 2017.

Sir Ben began his challenge in great style when his team clinched a win and a second place during the two races staged yesterday in front of thousands of spectators.

When William and Kate first arrived in Portsmouth, they had hoped to meet the five captains of the foreign crews at the city's historic dockyard where they are based.

But they were only able to meet local dignitaries and senior naval officers, but did manage to talk to a senior executive from the New Zealand team.

As they walked into a large marquee that was the Kiwis' base, William told the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire Nigel Atkinson: "Sorry the weather's so bad."

The Duke joked with Grant Dalton, chief executive officer of team New Zealand, telling him: "We want you guys to do well, but not that well."

Mr Dalton had taken William out into Auckland harbour when the Duke and Duchess raced against each other in Team New Zealand America's Cup yachts last year.

He said after speaking to William: "He's got to back the home team. But the All Blacks are going to beat England in the Rugby World Cup this year."

During the brief reception Colonel Mike Tanner presented the royal couple with wooden models of the aircraft carriers HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth which are due to come into service.

Col Tanner said: "They have been tested in the water they do float. These are models to be used at bath times by Prince George and Princess Charlotte."

The royal couple held a rescheduled reception at Southsea Castle where William and Kate met staff from the 1851 Trust, established to inspire a new generation into sailing and which has the duchess as its royal patron.

Jules Minter, head of corporate communications at timber and builders merchant Travis Perkins which is financially supporting the trust, chatted to the royal couple.

Ms Minter said: "William said he has his competent crew qualification which means he's qualified to crew a yacht, he can do everything bar skipper it. I've got the same qualification I did it in a week.

"Kate said she hadn't been sailing for a while."

Before leaving, William and Kate handed the winning trophy for the Portsmouth leg of the America's Cup World Series to Sir Ben and his team.

The award ceremony, which had been due to take place outdoors, was hastily rearranged in the auditorium at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard's Action Stations attraction.

Kate had swapped her BAR top for a familiar nautical combination of a white and blue thin-hooped top under a navy blue blazer.

The royal couple departed before Sir Ben and his team covered themselves in champagne in celebration of their win.

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