Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy
Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy is a centre for the sport of sailing on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, on the south coast of England, United Kingdom. The academy building is located in Osprey Quay on the northern tip of the island, and the waters of Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay, adjacent to the site, are the main areas used for sailing. Local, national and international sailing events have been held at the site since it was opened in 2000, and in 2005 WPNSA was selected to host the sailing events at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The academy's aims are to promote the sport of sailing at all levels of competence and ability, through courses, training and events, and to contribute to the economic regeneration of the area, by working closely with the local community. Since opening it has created a demand in service and marine industries worth around £10 million. WPNSA continues to promote sailing to local schools, offering benefits such as free boat hoist and storage. Use of the facilities and access to training is open to anyone in return for an annual membership fee.
In Victorian-times Portland Harbour was enclosed by four breakwaters, making it one of the largest man-made harbours in the world, and a Royal Naval base. The Royal Yachting Association had expressed interest in securing a suitable site locally for a number of decades, in order to make use of the harbour's natural advantages. However the opportunity did not develop until the end of the 20th century. In 1993, as part of defence spending cuts, the closure was announced of both the naval base and the research establishment on Portland. The harbour closed as a naval base on 29 March 1996, and was sold as a centre for water sports and as a service facility for Channel shipping. Following this the RNAS Portland HMS Osprey base also closed on 31 October 1999. This gave the academy the opportunity to develop itself.
A group of local people established the academy as a not-for-profit company in 1999, with the vision of a national centre of excellence for the sport of sailing. The company gained the support from the Royal Navy, the Royal Yachting Association, the South West Regional Development Agency, Sport England and all the local authorities in the area. The academy's sailing operations initially commenced in March 2000, with an official opening on 1 April 2000.
The academy originally operated from various disused military buildings and facilities. In 2003 the academy was able to start redevelopment of the site, and at the same time the London bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was becoming increasingly fruitful, and the academy was in turn selected as part of the sailing venue in the bid to the International Olympic Committee. By the spring of 2005 construction work was complete for the new academy buildings, including a clubhouse, and these were opened on 9 June 2005 by the Princess Royal - a month before London was selected as the host of the 30th Olympiad. A series of sailing events was held to celebrate the opening. In total the £7.85 million funding for the project was donated by charities, individuals and local councils; the National Lottery donated £3 million in 2003, and the South West Regional Development Agency added £3.34 million.
On 6 July 2005, London was chosen to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The academy responded by developing plans to further enhance the new facilities, and bring them to the standard required by the IOC. The Olympic Delivery Authority funded the academy's further marine works to meet the standards. The project included additional reclamation of the harbour, new slipways, while construction of a breakwater and pontoons were finished in 2008. As Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour had been widely recognised as the finest sailing waters in the UK, and with the successful development of the new purpose-built, on-shore facility, the academy was selected as the host venue for the London 2012 Olympic sailing events. As the construction project was completed on schedule and within budget, the academy was the first of the 2012 venues to be completed.
In the time leading up to the 2008, and 2012 games, the academy provided training facilities for the GBR team. Following the events the academy has become committed to promoting the sustainable legacy of the 2012 Games through social and environmental programmes.
The academy has been extensively redeveloped since 2003. Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay are the main areas used for sailing. The harbour covers an area of 8.6 square kilometres (2,125 acres), and is ideal for sailing as it is exposed to reliable winds from most directions, but is sheltered from large waves and currents by Chesil Beach and the breakwaters.
Sailing centre and Windsurfing school
The academy operates a successful sailing and windsurfing school, as well as an active members club catering for all abilities from complete beginners to Olympic medalists. It also hosts sporting events such as triathlons marathons, sea swimming events, team building events, corporate sailing days, offshore racing stopovers, and starts and finishes. The school SailLaser ran at the academy until the end of 2013, when it closed due to a restructuring of the global businesses of the operator LaserPerformance.
The Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre is a RYA accredited centre, delivering a wide range of sailing courses for young people, community organisations and adults; including programmes for schools, as well as club sailors. Andrew Simpson was a British sailor who won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and died while training for the America's Cup in San Francisco Bay in May 2013. The "Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation" was established to honour his life and legacy. It was set up by fellow sailors Sir Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy, along with his widow Leah Simpson and his sister Amanda, to support youth sailing. In May 2014 the Sailing Centre at the academy officially opened. Working alongside the associated charity the Chesil Trust, the centre has successfully introduced thousands of local children to sailing with the "Sail for a Fiver" scheme. The trust is an independent registered charity which enables children and young people with disabilities, and those experiencing disadvantages or social exclusive to develop skills through sailing training courses.
The Official Test Centre (OTC) Windsurfing School is a purpose-built centre to showcase the modern sport of windsurfing, and provide access to the sport for everyone. The centre houses many major windsurfing brands under one roof, with the concept being to enable its clients to test and compare the latest designs for themselves in favourable conditions. Alongside its affiliated RYA-accredited windsurfing school (the Osprey Training Centre) the OTC trains windsurfing at every level of ability, from beginners to advanced techniques. The centre has windsurfing as one of the most prominent water-sports arenas in the marine leisure industry today.
Internal and external features
The licensed clubhouse houses facilities on two floors, including a gymnasium, seven lecture and meeting rooms for 260 people, an event hall with kitchens and a bar, VIP meeting rooms and offices, a lounge bar and the WPNSA Cafeteria. The academy frequently holds functions, business meetings, weddings and conferences. The main function room is known as Spinnakers', which has a capacity of up to 150 people seated banquet-style and 200 buffet-style with its own servery and bar. The event hall's capacity is up to 350 people seated banquet style and 450 buffet style. Other facilities at the academy include a First Aid/Medical Suite and extensive changing facilities.
The outside of the academy complex has a 40-metre (131 ft) slipway, two deep water launching slipways, and two dinghy slipways, accessible at all states of the tide. 30 pontoons, with disabled access, feature 125 spaces for event mooring. There is a soft rigging area for windsurfers, cranage and boat hoists, including fixed cranes for boats up to 4 tonnes and a fully submersible boat hoist for boats up to 16 tonnes/4.5 metre beam. The academy has the facility for storage of all types of boat, as well as extensive dinghy, keelboats, powerboats parking areas. This includes long-term storage and winterisation for yachts and powerboats. A car parking area holds 700 parking spaces. The hoist and storage facilities are of the best value in the Dorset area. WPNSA also operates Boscawen House, formerly an admiral's residence, which offers accommodation for a maximum of 47 people. Relating to this, overnight parking for campervans/caravans (with hook up points to electricity) are available for those using the WPNSA facilities during events. A chandlery is run on the site via Weymouth Sailsports, and RIB Rental at the academy is supplied by the Port Tack Charter, based in Weymouth.
Osprey Quay is an 80 acres regeneration project commissioned by South West Regional Development Agency in 2001. Osprey Quay forms the gateway to the Isle of Portland. By 2012 Osprey Quay had been transformed with huge investment, offering over 11 hectares, a total of 60,000 square metres of business space. The Royal Yachting Association constructed its brand new training headquarters on site, and another significant development of Osprey Quay was the construction of the new Dean & Reddyhoff Marina with its associated business park offering chandlery and marine services. Leading name manufacturers based at Osprey Quay are Sunseeker International, G3 Systems and O'Three Dry and Wet Suits with their associated retail outlet. The marina housed The Boat that Rocks restaurant, similarly named after the feature film, much of which was filmed in the harbour. The restaurant opened in July 2009, but unexpectedly closed in late 2013. The employees were given no notice about the closure, and the venture quickly ceased trading. However, in 2014 the restaurant re-opened with new owners as Harbour Lights.
The redevelopment area also includes MCA Search and Rescue centre for the Portland Coastguard helicopter, an ECO residential development Officer's Field, and the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy's Osprey Quay campus. This school, with work commencing on its construction in 2011, now houses one of the Academy's two hubs for Nursery to Year 3 students, and also operate as a focus for marine studies – such as marine biology and marine engineering.
In November 2007, the Regional Development Agency had signed a deal with Sutton Harbour Group to construct a 3-hectare (7-acre) year-round tourist and leisure complex in Osprey Quay, between Portland Castle and the academy. The £30 million scheme, called Castle Court, was planned to feature a hotel, apartments, public areas, a restaurant, shops and other employment space, and was expected to create 300 jobs. It aimed to provide up to 1,400 jobs by 2016, and a further number of development zones on serviced land which together with over 500 jobs already supported, would have supported many more by the time it was fully developed. The scheme included the redevelopment of the former RNAS Portland Helicopter Control Tower. However none of the development ever came to fruition, and Sutton Harbour pulled out of the regeneration project in 2008. In April 2015 a new scheme was suggested by the government's Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) for the redevelopment of the site in the form of a £12 million housing plan. The agency decided to drop the original Castle Court scheme, and make a plan featuring more housing, with no affordable units, while also dropping the supermarket and industrial unit elements to make it more economically attractive to developers.
The academy has a commitment to stewardship of the environment. It has been described by Natural England as "an example of best practice", and is believed to be the only sailing venue in the world to have achieved the Sustainable Event Certification. The award-winning clubhouse building was designed to be energy efficient and has the largest photovoltaic array for the generation of solar energy installed in South Dorset. Working with SSE Energy, the installation now generates 15–20% of its electricity from solar cells, while rainwater is collected from the roof to wash boats, in substituton for mains water. Additionally 'Power Perfector' technology has been fitted, which reduces power consumption by a further 10%, and an active recycling programme recycles old sails and batteries. The academy has installed motion-sensitive lights throughout the complex. The academy won an acclaimed Environmental Award from Britain's best-selling yachting magazine in 2011. The Practical Boat Owner Green Awards selected WPNSA as winner of the "Marine Service and Support" award, and in 2012 it also won the Boating Business Environmental Award for 2012.
The academy has been developed with access for all, and as such offers full disabled services including lifts at both ends of the building, disabled changing/shower rooms and a ramp into the dinghy park. There are disabled access points on the pontoons via personal hoists, and three fixed cranes. In 2009 WPNSA won the International Olympic Committee recognised architectural award "the IPC/ IAKS Distinction for Accessibility" for excellent disabled access. The Chesil Sailability group was inspired by the 2012 Paralympic Games, and is based at the Paralympic sailing venue. It is a local group passionate about sailing, regardless of disabilities.
A number of sponsors support the academy. Bronze level sponsors include Cadbury, BAE Systems and Icom, while silver level sponsors include Charles Russell LLP, a full service City legal practice, and Musto, the latter providing all clothing worn at the academy. Cadbury have revealed their hope to give pleasure and inspiration to Weymouth and Portland's local communities and global water sports enthusiasts, while BAE Systems are a global defence, security and aerospace company committed to working effectively with sponsorship and charitable partners to benefit their customers and the communities in which they operate. Icom, regarded as one of the world's leading radio manufacturers, supports the academy with the provision of radios necessary to ensure the safe and smooth running of events and training.
Since opening the academy has hosted national and international sailing events, including the J/24 World Championships in 2005, staging trials for the 2004 Athens Olympics, the ISAF World Championship 2006, the BUCS Fleet Racing Championships, and the RYA Youth National Championships. Local events are also held at the academy; nearby schools have extra-curricular sailing lessons, and in October each year WPNSA hosts Weymouth Speed Week. The British Olympic Sailing Team train at WPNSA.
2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games
In 2005, the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) was chosen as the venue for the sailing competition at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. WPNSA was chosen to host these events due to its existing World class facilities. The Olympic Delivery Authority has built upon these facilities providing a new 220m slipway accessible at all states of tide and wind, an additional 70 marina berths and an extended dinghy park with capacity for 600 boats. In addition, the Academy provides direct access to Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay which have been credited as some of the best sailing waters in the World. Olympic sailing events took place between 28 July and 11 August 2012, and Paralympic events between 31 August and 5 September. One course was in Portland Harbour and four in Weymouth Bay. Sailors from all over the world competed for 30 medals in the Olympic Games and 18 medals in the Paralympic Games. A cruise liner berthed at Portland Port was used as accommodation.
The academy is around 190 kilometres (120 mi) from the Olympic Zone in central London. There was concern about the logistics of transporting athletes from London to the academy, as there is no motorway in Dorset, and transport links are already often congested in summer. Weymouth and Portland Borough Council have lobbied the Department for Transport to lay dual railway track and increase services from Weymouth railway station to London and Bristol, and to introduce new direct services to Exeter. Services to London Waterloo began running every 30 minutes from December 2007, but services through Bristol to Cardiff were stopped. On 5 April 2007, Dorset County Council granted planning permission for a relief road scheme to alleviate congestion between Weymouth and Dorchester, which includes a single carriageway running 7 kilometres (4 mi) north of Weymouth, and a 1000-space park-and-ride scheme, costing £84.5 million. Work on the road commenced in 2008, and as anticipated it was completed in three years, in time for the 2012 Olympic sailing events.
The academy also hosted the Moth World Championships in 2008.
2016 Vintage Yachting Games
During the closing ceremony of the 2012 Vintage Yachting Games at Lake Como Italy, the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) was formally announced as the venue for the 2016 Vintage Yachting Games.
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