February 28, 2020 – Seven teams and one clear winner as Ben Ainslie and the Great Britain SailGP Team presented by INEOS kick start SailGP Season 2 with a bang. New to the championship this season, the five-time Olympian certainly showed he meant business today, ending day one of Sydney SailGP on 30 points from a possible 30.
Following racing, Ainslie said: “You can’t really ask for better conditions than that, 15-20 knots, southerly on Sydney Harbour. It was a real challenge for all the teams because the wind was so shifty which meant a lot of difficult manoeuvres needed to be executed. But I think our team did a great job, the guys on the boat were fantastic and we’re delighted with three wins.”
Consisting of three high speed fleet races, day one of racing wasn’t short of drama and near misses. An early collision in race one meant the new Spanish team, skippered at the moment by stand in helm Phil Robertson, missed out on a podium finish and France had to drop out of race two and three of the day due to boat damage leaving just six F50s on the course.
With a totally one-design fleet, the results come down to the tactical decisions being made on board and today the Brits proved they can make the right call under pressure. With a big wind shift in race two, Ainslie picked the left-hand side of the course while Rome Kirby of USA went right. It was an intense match race between the two nations up to the top mark with Ainslie just sneaking in front and ultimately leading the fleet to the finish line.
Commenting on the difficulties the teams face when racing, Ainslie said: “The most challenging thing is the racecourse. It’s a very tight course which forces you to do a lot of manoeuvres and with such high intensity that’s really impactful. You’ve got to have a great team because if someone loses their position or makes a mistake then the whole thing falls apart quite quickly and all of a sudden you can be at the back of the fleet. You’ve just got to try and stay focused and execute those manoeuvres well.”
Communication on these high-speed foiling catamarans is crucial on a day like today with gusty and variable wind conditions but with experienced SailGP athletes Iain Jensen on the wing and Luke Parkinson on flight controls, Ainslie proved he indeed has a strong team behind him and this could make all the difference when it comes to getting into the match race final tomorrow.
Season 1 winner, Tom Slingsby of the Australia SailGP Team commented on the Brits performance: “I’m not worried about the British, but they did well today. They’re clearly sailing faster and better than the rest of the fleet - they have great teamwork. We just need to try and win enough points to get in that match race tomorrow.”
It’s been a good day in the office for the British team, but the hard work doesn’t stop there. With lighter winds forecast tomorrow, the team will prepare for day two by studying some of their lighter air footage from earlier training days on Sydney Harbour, but will that be enough to get them into the match race tomorrow? “If we do that that’s a whole different game again. It’s been quite a while since we did a match race, so we’ll go away and study hard”, said Ainslie.
Full race replays from day one of racing at Sydney SailGP are available on Sky Sports at 1100 and 1730 GMT on Friday 28th February. Full race replays will also be available on the SailGP APP 48 hours after racing.
You can catch day two of racing from 1100 GMT on Sky Sports on Saturday 29th February. More information is available at SailGP.com/Watch.