26/06/2012 11:11 BST

London 2012: Prince Charles Christens Olympic Sailing Boat (PICTURES)

The Prince of Wales christened an Olympic sailing boat today as he made a surprise visit to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.

Charles was invited to the Olympic sailing site - the largest venue outside London - by three-times gold medallist Ben Ainslie.

The Prince's appearance caused a stir amongst the gathered athletes from Team GB and around the world who have come to train in the waters off Dorset's coast.

Met by the chief executive of the academy, John Tweed, and the chairman, Edward Leask, Charles was shown the site from a balcony adorned with flags from across the world.


As he toured the academy with Ainslie he gathered a significant following as people hustled for position to get a photograph of the royal visitor.

He went on to meet members of the Team GB Olympic and Paralympic sailing team, as well as representatives from Australia and Canada.

Meeting Olympic hopefuls Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, the Prince was asked to christen their boat - which they have only had for a couple of days.

The pair - Britain's representatives in the 49er class - handed Charles a bottle of Palmers Dorset Gold. He poured the ale over the white sailing boat, naming it Lovely Rita.


Rhodes, 31, said: "Lovely Rita is a Beatles song and we thought it was as British a name as it could be. Ben (Ainslie) names all his boats Rita so we thought we should get in on the action."

Rhodes said it had been a last-minute decision to get the Prince to christen the boat.

Asked if it adds extra pressure on the pair to win, he said: "Oh yeah. It's a royal ship now."

Ainslie, who is seeking a fourth consecutive gold medal when he competes in the Finn class at this year's games, said the academy in Portland is a shining example of the legacy of the 2012 Olympics.


"It's fantastic what is going on down here in Weymouth and Portland - with it being the Olympic venue and everything that has taken place over the years, the build-up, the infrastructure and the facilities at the academy itself," he said.

"When we think about 2012, and people talk about the legacy of 2012, this is a fantastic example of that and it's great to have Prince Charles down here and have him show his support."

US Olympic sailing team members Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan also managed to have a chat with the prince after infiltrating a line-up of Olympic sailors from Australia and Canada.

Clark, 30, a 470 dinghy sailor, said: "It was pretty incredible. I didn't actually know that he was coming today, but we snuck into the line and had a wonderful opportunity.


"I think that it is really, really amazing and I'm so happy that he came down to support sailing and christen the boat for the British - that's just so cool, absolutely incredible."

She said the team's training at the Academy in Weymouth and Portland had been going well, if a little cold, and they would be keeping an eye on their British competitors.

"We finished the Skandia sail for Gold event, bringing home the silver medal, so we're feeling really confident that we're in the mix," Clark said.

"The British ladies are sailing really well, they will be in the mix for sure, I think it is going to come down to the medal race and it's going to be extremely exciting to watch."