Emirates GBR driver Ben Ainslie has dissected his team’s performance in San Francisco’s championship-deciding Grand Final, which saw the Brits finish in third place behind Peter Burling’s New Zealand.
The three-boat, winner-takes-all Grand Final followed an outstanding fleet racing performance from the British crew, which deployed start line chaos tactics to knock Quentin Delapierre’s France out of the final three.
Emirates GBR finished the first day with a masterful 2-1-2 race record, but couldn’t repeat the same success on Sunday. The team finished fourth and fifth in the last two fleet races and ‘wasn’t quite clicking’, Ainslie said.
“In the final two fleet races, we just couldn’t get through the pack and struggled a little bit,” he said.
Heading into the Grand Final, there was everything to play for. But the Aussies were aggressive in the pre-start, hooking the Brits as they tacked into the starting box and delaying their start. As a result, the British F50 was the last to cross the line and trailed both Australia and New Zealand into Mark One.
Ainslie revealed he was ‘crossing the boat at the time of the incident. “It’s one of the dangers when you tack in late that you can get hooked - unfortunately the timing, whether or not that was by design, was just as I was crossing the boat, so getting the helm to react was a bit harder than normal.”
Strategist Hannah Mils added that she ‘wasn’t surprised’ the Aussies were aggressive fro the off.
“That’s part of the game, but it was timed perfectly by them when Ben was crossing the boat so Ben’s eyes weren’t looking and my eyes weren’t looking.”
Despite this shaky start, good boat speed and solid boat handling saw Emirates GBR recover on the second leg of the race, taking second place from the Kiwis. However, disaster struck on the penultimate leg, when the Brits fell off the foils.
“It looked like there were some opportunities to get back into the race but our big crash down on the final leeward mark rounding kind of finished our race,” he said.
Reflecting on the final event of Season 3, Ainslie said the team had ‘sailed really well all weekend’ and taken a ‘step up’ compared to the rest of the season. “We pushed a but harder and took a few more risks which worked for us, but some mistakes crept in when we couldn’t afford them.”
However, Ainslie said the team ‘has come a long way this season’ and would be investigating ‘what’s behind the mistakes’ ahead of Season 4 kicking off in Chicago next month.
“Certainly we want to be up there with the Aussies,” he said. “That’s our target”.
Mills added that the team’s end to Season 3 was ‘frustrating’. “We’re competitive and we want to win. If you don’t put yourself on the line, then you don’t have the lows but you also don’t have the highs.”
She added that the team would take time to ‘process’ the disappointing of San Francisco but would be ‘raring to go’ come Chicago.
The F50 fleet will kick off Season 4 on the waters of Lake Michigan when the Rolex United States Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier gets underway on June 16-17.