From the earliest days of sailing ships, experienced sailors have known of the particular qualities of the local sailing waters. Henry VIII recognised their importance and built two castles to protect the area. The Royal Yachting Association had been trying for decades to secure a suitable site locally to make the most of these natural advantages, but the opportunity came when in 1999 it was announced that the Royal Naval Air Station at Portland was to be closed.
A group of local people established a not-for-profit company to take the vision of a national centre of excellence for the sport of sailing forward and with the support of the Royal Navy, the Royal Yachting Association, the South West Regional Development Agency, Sport England and all the local authorities in the area, this idea started to take shape. The Academy started sailing operations on the site in March, 2000.
After initially operating from the disused military buildings and facilities, in 2003 the Academy was in a position to start construction work on redeveloping the site. At the same time the London bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was gathering momentum and the Academy was selected as part of the sailing venue in the bid to the International Olympic Committee.
Construction works were completed in the spring of 2005 and HRH The Princess Royal formally opened the new Academy buildings on 9th June, 2005. Less than a month later London was selected as the venue for the 30th Olympiad. This impressive facility had therefore moved from starting sailing operations on the site to being part of an Olympic venue in slightly more than five years. Once the decision had been made to award the 2012 Games to London, plans were put in place to further enhance the facilities to bring them up to the standard required by the IOC. The Olympic Delivery Authority then funded further marine works to meet these standards. These works, consisting of additional reclamation of the harbour, new slipways, construction of a breakwater and pontoons were finished in 2008, on time and on budget, making the Academy the first of the 2012 venues to be completed. The Academy also provided training facilities for the GBR team in the run-up to both the 2008 and 2012 Games.
Development of the Academy has provided first class facilities including 220 metres of slipway accessible at all states of wind and tide as well as 600 dinghy spaces and 125 protected marina berths for ribs and yachts.
The combination of clean winds, sheltered waters and small tidal range in the area is unique. World-class facilities set in the centre of the Jurassic Coast, the only natural World Heritage Site on the UK mainland, provide an unrivalled venue for training and sailing competitions.