HAMILTON - April, 25 - The Great Britain SailGP Team, helmed by Sir Ben Ainslie, took home the title in the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess, after a thrilling day of racing on the Great Sound.
With the British going into the second and final day of the Bermuda SailGP in sixth place, the team knew improvements were needed to challenge for the event title. The conditions in Bermuda promised a formidable day of racing with strong wind conditions over 20 knots, close to the upper wind limits.
Due to the strong conditions, all teams sailed with their 18-metre ‘baby’ wingsail, with several teams using the newly available smallest wing, introduced this season by SailGP, for the first time.
The opening race of the day lived up to what the conditions were promising with close racing, collisions and capsizes. For the British team, it was a strong start with a lead at the first mark and the team’s F50 catamaran flying at speeds of over 50 knots (58 MPH/ 93 KPH).
The race, which saw the USA and Japan SailGP Teams heavily collide, forcing both to retire from racing, was neck-and-neck between the British and the Australia SailGP Team throughout including several lead changes. The key moment of the race came at the third gate, when Great Britain, on starboard advantage, put the Australians under significant pressure and forced a penalty for not giving enough space. From then on, the British team sailed consistently well to build up a strong lead and win the first race of the day by 35 seconds.
Speaking from onboard the team’s F50 immediately after the race win, Ben Ainslie said: “It’s seriously hard out here with the testing conditions. We’ve had some issues in the past couple of days and have been trying to work them out. We’ve been trying some set-up changes and it was better in that race.”
The team knew, however, any celebrations had to be short-lived as the British would need another strong performance in the second race to make it into the top-three and the final ‘podium race’.
Another clean start in the race for Great Britain saw the British round the first mark just inside and ahead of the Australian team. New Zealand SailGP Team led the race, with the British F50 just behind, but a bad manoeuvre by the Kiwis heading into the leeward gate meant the British were forced to slow behind them and drop down to fifth behind their main rivals; the Australians, French and Spanish. The race was on.
Chasing the Spanish team for the critical third place, an error in their manoeuvre in the third leg, which led to the Spanish helm Phil Robertson losing his footing, gave the British the opportunity they needed. Coming back on starboard advantage the British moved into third place. The team then took further advantage of their momentum and overtook the French to move into second on the final downwind leg.
The Great Britain SailGP Team ultimately finished the race in second, in a race won by Tom Slingsby’s Australians, six seconds ahead of the Spanish in third. By finishing second the British team secured their place in the final ‘podium race’ alongside the Australian and Spanish teams.
The final, ‘winner takes all’, podium race of the Bermuda SailGP proved no less thrilling. A third strong start of the day for all three teams led to a drag race to the first mark, with the British just taking the lead and managing to keep the Australians behind them in their dirty air, whilst the French split. In strengthening winds of up to 46KM/H (25 knots), control was the name of the game Great Britain's wing trimmer Iain ‘Goobs’ Jensen and flight controller Luke ‘Parko’ Parkinson expertly piloted the team’s F50 to both keep the manoeuvres smooth and put as much ‘dirty air’ on the Australian boat behind.
The neck-and-neck action continued throughout the race, with the both the British and Australian teams splitting at several points, to seek better pressure to extend the lead or to find an overtaking lane. The British team managed to keep their noses in front and came out on top to win the podium race and with it take the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess title by just four seconds.
Speaking from onboard the team’s F50 as the celebrations began, both for winning the Grand Prix and for grinder Neil Hunter’s birthday, helm Ben Ainslie added: “That was a cracking day of racing. That’s what we want to do, go up against these guys in conditions like this. It was just perfect.
“I have to give huge credit to the team. We really struggled in the opening day, as you saw. We went through and analysed what was going wrong with our coach Rob Wilson and Hannah Mills overnight and it has been a big team effort.
“It still wasn’t perfect, but the team just sailed the boat really well. We tried to give the Australians a little luff out of mark one and got quite close to a penalty but then it was all on that following gybe out of the boundary and the guys nailed it. The guys onboard, especially Parko flying the boat when we weren’t 100% in terms of control, did an awesome job."
SailGP resumes in Taranto for the Italy Sail Grand Prix on 5th June 2021.
The Great Britain SailGP Team’s home Grand Prix takes place in Plymouth on 17th and 18th July 2021.