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Fund boost for Ainslie's America's Cup quest

(Reuters) - Ben Ainslie's quest to claim a maiden America's Cup triumph for Britain received a financial boost on Tuesday with the government announcing a £7.5 million ($12.59 million) fund for a permanent team base in Portsmouth.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Ainslie will lead an 80 million pound British challenge for the 35th America's Cup in 2017, aiming to return sport's oldest trophy to his country for the first time since the competition began in 1851.

"Sir Ben Ainslie's project is truly fantastic news for Portsmouth and the Solent," Prime Minister David Cameron said after announcing the funding at 10 Downing Street.

"This is an exciting and historic challenge and I hope the whole country can get behind Sir Ben's campaign."

Starting initially with 90 staff, the headquarters would be the "focal point" for the design, construction and development of the team's boats and would also provide sports science and fitness facilities, Ben Ainslie Racing said on their website.

"Portsmouth has a great maritime heritage and we felt it was a natural home for the team's permanent base in the UK," Ainslie said.

"We hope through our journey to bring the Cup home to Britain, we will inspire more young people to get involved in the sport, along with supporting the growth of the marine sector in the Solent area to match the country's F1 innovation hub."

Construction work will start immediately, with planned completion in May 2015, the team said.

($1 = 0.5956 pounds)

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty; Editing by John O'Brien)

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