Weymouth defends games legacy

China's Xu Lijia celebrates winning gold in the Laser Radial sailing class on August 6 (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/GettyImages)

China's Xu Lijia celebrates winning gold in the Laser Radial sailing class on August 6 (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/GettyImages)

Almost two weeks of dazzling action on the water in Weymouth have taken place amid mixed reports of business benefits for local tradespeople, prompting headlines in local newspapers such as: ‘So where is everybody?’.

But Simon Williams, head of Weymouth and Portland 2012 Operations, insists the authorities have delivered on their objectives to stage events that were a success for athletes and spectators, particularly on the Nothe area, the first such ticketed site for Olympic spectators.

“There may be a mixed picture, but overall we had 70,000 visitors in the town over the main [middle] weekend and you cannot rent a house or flat in Portland,” said Williams.

“We have done much to diversify the business market to a whole range of businesses and the TV coverage has been outstanding, showing the geography of the place and the quality of the environment. It’s the first international sailing event held at a world heritage site… There are real and tangible benefits for the long term.”

Outlining a series of improvements made to the area – including a relief road, transport links, new bus services, and property developments – and cultural activities linked to the games, he said an area allowing visitors to try new sports had welcomed 60,000 people, with professional national coaches available in many sports. “We had 2,012 people walk into the sea with torches. They were very moved by a less tangible benefit but all had a key positive personal experience,” he added.

The Rev Anne Dunn, associate priest at Holy Trinity Church, Weymouth, said: “Although there were problems with [visitor] numbers not being so large as Locog expected, we’ve had so much exposure on TV. With viewers seeing how beautiful the area is, we are hoping it will be good for tourism next year.”

Graham Castell, commodore of Royal Dorset Yacht Club, said that while from a club perspective it had been great to have so many visitors from overseas and other clubs, the town had suffered “an awful lot of disruption in preparation for the Olympics”.

“It seems many regular holidaymakers have booked elsewhere and we’ve not had sufficient Olympic visitors to compensate. The British holidaymaker is a creature of habit and the question is ‘will they come back?’ ”

Elsewhere in sailing, Brian Thompson, Britain’s best multihull sailor, has appealed for British companies to sponsor his next challenge – to become the fastest yachtsman to sail round-the-world in a multihulled boat.

The 50-year-old yachtsman from Southampton who already holds more sailing records than anyone, is preparing to break the record for a solo multihull circumnavigation.

He said that having been in a fifth-placed boat in the epic Vendee Globe round the world race this year and having just completed a second transatlantic dash in the blisteringly fast MOD70 trimaran he was “ready to put the two together” to attempt to break the solo multihull record which stands at 58 days.

Thompson is currently one of a crew of six, including two Omani sailors, aboard Musanadam-Oman Sail, a trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet, where his main role is as watch leader. The boat has just completed the first race in the Krys Ocean Race, part of the Multi One Championships 2012-14 programme for one-design MOD70 trimarans which are campaigning with the world’s best offshore skippers.

The Omani boat will be skippered again by Gavignet in an autumn race series in Europe. “The race to Brest has been a steep learning curve for our crew who are the most diverse with one American, one Briton, two Omanis and two French on board,” said Gavignet. “While we have the great experience of Brian Thompson with us, we are relatively short on sailing experience and training. My mission is to both perform and to teach the Omanis world-class racing.”