Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain scooped a 'win sandwich' on SailGP’s Season 3 opener while newcomer Canada’s smooth sailing saw the team finish the day at the top of the leaderboard.
Huge crowds gathered amid gusty conditions on the iconic Great Sound to watch the nine-strong fleet take to the water on the opening day of the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess.
Ben Ainslie’s British team got to work quickly, leading the pack at mark one and taking an early gybe to cut out in front. With tactician Nikki Boniface keeping her eyes on the fleet from the back of the boat, the British team kept it clean and steadily extended their lead as the race progressed.
Canada was never far behind, proving the experience of former Spain Driver Phil Robertson and the expertise of SailGP veteran Chris Draper. Overall, fans enjoyed smooth sailing around the racecourse with heightened performances across a fleet that looks to have mastered the fine balancing act of flying the F50.
Canada and Great Britain dominated for much of the second race until a head to head between the two boats at the 6th mark proved costly for the British team. A sticky turn forced them to turn closer to the wind, killing their boat speed and leaving them in eighth place overall.
With Great Britain out of the way, Canada was free to blast their way to victory, closely followed by Quentin Delapierre’s France and Peter Burling’s New Zealand.
The third fleet race started well for Jordi Xammar’s Spain and Delapierre’s France while Canada and New Zealand were penalised for early starts.
An early on sprint between Great Britain and France at the second gate became the theme of the race, with the two teams leading the pack and jostling for the lead. A mistake early on by Spain, which saw Xammar needlessly sail extra distance to round the alternate mark, proved fatal and left the team in ninth position.
Great Britain pulled away from France on the last leg to sail 5 km/h faster than Delapierre’s team on the final downwind and blast over the line. France’s second place finish proved an encouraging turnaround for Delapierre’s team, which finished last in the first race. Meanwhile defending champion Australia slipped quietly into third place, with a consistent performance securing them third spot on the overall leaderboard.
As for the rest of the fleet, it was a disappointing day for both Jimmy Spithill’s USA and Peter Burling’s New Zealand, with the latter finishing seventh on the overall leaderboard. Spithill meanwhile finished with a 3-7-7 record in an uncharacteristically flat performance.
Race Day 2 begins at 2pmADT local time on Sunday with two further Fleet Races planned before the Final. The team that wins the final podium race will win the event will be crowned event champion.