Ben Ainslie has described Great Britain’s disastrous final manoeuvre, which lost the team the Final of the Dubai Sail Grand Prix, as ‘one of the best examples of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory’.
The winner-takes-all Final saw Great Britain go head to head with Australia and France, the latter of which dominated for much of the race. But everything changed at the fifth gate - the Brits gained the inside track and jumped from third to first place.
Ainslie was in control and looked set to claim the win, but on the approach to the last gate a disastrous final manoevure saw the British F50 fall off the foils while Australia whistled past.
Speaking after the race, Ainslie said the moment was ‘hugely frustrating for the team’ while strategist Hannah Diamond said the messy manoevure was due to ‘just not being able to get the board down’.
“You can’t jibe until you have the board down and on the lock so we had to wait,” she explained. The delay handed the Aussies the ‘chance to spin around inside,’ she said. “We’ll have to look into why that happened but we’re just gutted really.”
Ainslie gave insight into the team’s racing tactics in the Final, during which Great Britain split away from Australia at the bottom mark gate of the fifth leg.
The team was originally set to take the right gate but changed strategy when they saw Australia heading right too.
“We came back out of the jibe and split left and that worked for us because when you’re behind like that you need to instigate some kind of split,” he said. “That enabled us to have the split and get right to that top gate where we snuck in front and got the lead.”
Ainslie remained upbeat about the team’s performance across the weekend, which resulted in a dominant 6-1-1-2-3-4 fleet racing record.
“We sailed a great weekend and I’m really proud of the way the team sailed across a range of conditions,” he said. “We missed that final jibe but that’s SailGP and that’s sport.”
The light airs of Dubai caused havoc on the first day of racing, with many races shortened or terminated early, but the British team ‘felt competitive in the light airs’ for the first time in ‘a long while’, Ainslie said.
“It feels like the lighter airs are probably our Achilles’ heel, but we’ve ironed out a few things there.”
Elsewhere, Ainslie complimented the venue of Dubai for providing ‘the best day of racing we’ve had in SailGP so far’ thanks to a combination of a ‘tight racetrack and strong sea breeze’. “It’s hard to beat that.”