The Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team finished the first day of the Emirates Dubai SailGP Presented by P&O Marinas with a race win after a “tough start”. Crowds gathered to watch the close to shore racing between the 10 F50 foiling race boats as the sun shone down on Port Rashid. Although the sun was shining, Sir Ben Ainslie said it was a “tricky old day out there” for Emirates GBR, who ended Race Day 1 with a 5-7-1 result.
The first race began with an excellent start for France, but Emirates GBR were late to the line and struggled towards the back of the fleet. Wind speeds of about 22kmh and the tight course led to lots of teams falling off the foils on the downward gate, and there was an extremely close call between New Zealand and Switzerland which led to the Swiss Team falling flat off the foils. Despite the difficult start, Emirates GBR worked hard to climb up the fleet and cross the finish line in fifth place.
The conditions became lighter ahead of the second race, with Race Management deciding to reduce crew size from six people on board to four. Grinders Nick Hutton and Neil Hunter had to come off the F50, which led to Emirates GBR Strategist, Hannah Mills OBE, stepping in to the powerhouse position. The race began with a disqualification for Germany and ended with a race win for former United States Driver Jimmy Spithill, who was driving the Australia F50 for Tom Slingsby, who is missing the Dubai event for paternity leave. Emirates GBR finished in seventh position, but the Brits battled back in the third race.
After crossing the start line in third position, Emirates GBR overtook both Switzerland and Spain to lead the race. With Mills on the grinding handles, Ainslie as Driver, Luke Parkinson as Flight Controller and Iain Jensen as Wing Trimmer, the crew cruised to victory with a 160m lead.
Speaking after the racing, Ainslie said: “The first two races we really struggled getting off the line and we ended up in a lot of bad air and in those marginal foiling conditions you just can’t afford to be in that position.
“It was a tough start but we salvaged an OK result in Race 1, but Race 2 was a frustrating one for us so we really needed to comeback in that final race.
“We will need two good races tomorrow to get into that podium race. The forecast is for similar conditions, maybe a little bit lighter, so it will be all about teamwork in those light airs to keep the boat moving.”
Emirates GBR end Race Day 1 in fourth position on the leaderboard, with it all to race for tomorrow. UK viewers can watch all the action live on ITVX from 10:00 GMT.