Australia driver Tom Slingsby has debriefed Saint-Tropez’s tense, three-boat showdown, which saw Ben Ainslie’s Emirates Great Britain win its first event since Season 2.
Despite leading for the majority of the race, the Aussies were passed in dramatic fashion by the Brits on the penultimate leg of the race, with Ainslie’s crew sailing on to victory.
Australia was aggressive from the off, fighting with Emirates GBR for the best starting position and match racing Ainslie’s team throughout.
Slingsby admitted the Aussies ‘hadn’t been aggressive enough’ in previous Finals. “I said I was going to be aggressive in this one and take the pin end [of the start line] no matter what it took,” he explained.
Despite Emirates GBR being positioned just 0.2m from the line at the gun (while Australia was 7.6m away), it was the Aussies that made the quickest start with a speed of 44.1 km/h compared to the Brits’ 40 km/h. This allowed Australia to secure the all-important inside track to Mark 1.
After getting in a ‘great starting position’, Slingsby said his aim was to be ‘all over’ the British, but reflected that ‘in hindsight maybe it wasn’t the venue for that’.
“Maybe we should have sailed our own race and just sailed the pressure a bit more,” he said. “But I just didn’t want to give leverage to anyone - maybe I make a mistake there.”
The crucial moment occurred at Gate 4, which saw the Aussies fly too high and skid sideways on the water before taking the right hand side of the course. The Brits decided to split and take the left-hand side - a move Slingsby expected.
“We knew they were going to go the opposite way,” he said. “That’s the beauty of being the boat behind.”
But on that final upwind leg, a big transition in the wind saw a 50 degree shift favor the Brits. “We were trying to block them, but we just couldn’t get there,” Slingsby said.
Despite emphasizing his ambition to ‘have the upper hand every time’, Slingsby acquiesced that Emirates GBR was ‘so deserving of a win’. “They had to stay close to us the whole time to give themselves an opportunity, and when the one opportunity came - they took it, so hats off to them.”
The F50 fleet will next meet for the ROCKWOOL Italy Sail Grand Prix in Taranto on September 23-24.