SailGP’s commentators have dissected the post-racing clash between Emirates GBR and New Zealand after the Brits spectacularly blocked the Kiwis from Cádiz’s three-boat Final.
The situation unfolded on the final leg of the fifth fleet race when New Zealand had to beat the United States to make it into the winner-takes-all Final.
A mistake by U.S. driver Jimmy Spithill saw the American boat turn down early towards the Kiwis - allowing New Zealand to block the U.S. F50. But with their eyes firmly placed on the Americans, the Kiwis failed to spot the British boat approaching.
Commentator Stevie Morrison explained: “Once Jimmy had made that mistake and New Zealand turned in front and trapped him, it was control to the Kiwis, but they didn’t look at what was coming back up the course - they hadn’t noticed the British.”
As the windward boat, New Zealand was forced to keep clear of Emirates GBR, which had the right of way. This trapped New Zealand and allowed the United States to cross the finish line first.
The incident led to an on-water row between Emirates GBR driver Ben Ainslie and New Zealand wing trimmer Blair Tuke heard on the teams’ communications channels. Tuke called Ainslie a ‘lemon’, adding ‘you’re not even in our race’, and Ainslie responded by calling Tuke ‘arrogant’.
Reflecting on the incident, commentator Todd Harris said he was surprised by the clash, describing Tuke and Ainslie as ‘two of the calmest guys’. “I didn’t expect that reaction from either of them,” he said.
“I think that was just frustration that was built up over the whole weekend.” He pointed to Emirates GBR’s ‘terrible’ performance in Cádiz, which followed two event wins for the team in Saint-Tropez and Taranto. Emirates GBR picked up an 8-5-6-7-6 fleet racing record to finish the event in 8th overall.
“Emirates GBR came to Cádiz fresh from two wins, came out on day one and just look terrible - that was the biggest surprise for me,” Harris said.
Morrison agreed that Emirates GBR was ‘very poor’ in Cádiz, adding that the team ‘seemed to adapt their starting style back to something that doesn’t work very well’.
However, reflecting on the incident with New Zealand, he said Ainslie was ‘perfectly within his rights’ to block the Kiwis.
“They [New Zealand] were upset Ben enforced the rule but I don’t think he did anything out of order”.
Morrison pointed to the long-term nature of SailGP’s seasons and the driving ambition of teams to rise to the top of the overall Championship leaderboard.
“It’s a season, not a short term event, so the British were always going to do that,” he said.