After a clean sweep on day one of racing at the season opener of SailGP Season 2, Ben Ainslie and the Great Britain SailGP Team presented by INEOS didn’t show any signs of slowing down at Sydney SailGP. With a win in race four and a fourth in race five, Ainslie led the charge into the match race final against second placed Tom Slingsby and the Australia SailGP Team.
The day began with a tight start line in the first fleet race, where all seven supercharged F50s were back racing after France were forced to retire yesterday due to a collision with the new Spain SailGP Team. Commenting on his first race win of the day, Ainslie said: “A few of the other teams were over the line at the start and this just opened it up for us, it was a nice race!” Taking the win in this took the pressure of the Brits for a while as they it meant they secured a place in the match race final with a race to spare.
The wind on the race-course today was a lot lighter than during the action on day one which meant a different set up for the teams and new challenges to overcome.
The conditions for the second race of day 2 in Sydney weren’t so kind to the four-time Olympic champion and his team. Having led the charge across the start line, the Brits were seen suddenly dropping from first to last in a matter of seconds as they watched their six rival nations – Australia, Denmark, France, Japan, Spain and United States – fly past in the standings. When questioned, Ainslie said: “We got stuck on Steel Point and just couldn’t get going again, basically becalmed, so that was a bit disappointing.”
Regardless of this set-back, the team proved their worth as they rapidly worked their way back up the fleet to finish the second race in fourth place, extending their points lead yet further going into the final match race of the event.
The eagerly anticipated race between Season 1 Champions Australia and the British SailGP Team was ultimately won on the start line as Australia’s sailing superstar, Tom Slingsby, was penalised for an early entry into the start box. He said: “Apparently we were a quarter of a second early, I thought we were OK, but we weren’t. To get rid of that penalty in the pre-start, in no wind, meant we were a sitting duck really.”
Ainslie however had a clear game plan in the match race: “We were asked which end of the line we wanted and normally you would say we’ll take the port entry and get in there first and get control. But we had a look at the start box and realised the wind was so patchy and shifty, actually that entry would be tough to keep the boat moving as we’d have to throw in a couple of manoeuvres and we didn’t want to get caught out like we had before.”
In their calm manner on board, the British team – consisting in total of Ben Ainslie, Luke Parkinson, Iain Jensen, Matt Gotrel, Richard Mason and Neil Hunter – crossed the finish line for the final time to be crowned champions of Sydney SailGP and establish themselves as contenders in the championship.
The team will now look ahead to the second event of SailGP Season 2 which returns to San Francisco on 2-3 May. With stronger winds and new modular wings, the event will likely see some teams breaking the 50-knot mark again after the British team claimed top speed in Sydney, just shy of this with 49.1 knots on day of racing.
Fans can catch up on the racing in the UK with full race replays on Sky Sports at 1100 and 1630 GMT as well as catching the action on the SailGP APP from Tuesday.