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Tough homecoming for Great Britain SailGP Team in Plymouth

16 JULY 2021News
Tags:
  • Great Britain Sail Grand Prix
  • Great Britain

The world’s most exciting racing on water came to Britain’s Ocean City today, as the sold-out Great Britain Sail Grand Prix kicked off in the natural amphitheatre of the Plymouth Sound in stunning conditions with thousands of fans lining the Plymouth Hoe.

Despite the brilliant home support, it was not the homecoming the Great Britain SailGP Team had hoped for as the team struggled in the opening two race starts. In the final race of the opening day of action, however, the British team rallied, with a second-place finish giving the home fans and opportunity to make themselves heard.

Reflecting on the day’s action Great Britain SailGP Team interim driver Paul Goodison standing in for Ben Ainslie, who is away with his family after welcoming the new arrival of their baby son Fox, said:

“That was a frustrating day. We were a bit behind the eight-ball for race one and didn’t quite identify how light it was in the start box.

“On the second race we tacked under the Australians in the pre-start and I thought we were in the right, but we had a small tap which meant we had to get behind them which cost us dearly. I felt it was a tough call.

“We executed the same game plan for race three and it was clear it was the right thing to do, so it was a bit frustrating it didn’t work out the same for the second race as it would have been a very different day. Looking ahead to tomorrow we’ve just got to get ourselves as high up the leaderboard as we can.

“Finally, it was fantastic to have the home support here, seeing all the Union Jacks flying, people cheering and supporting us on. It was a touching moment when we got back to the dock to loud cheers from the home fans too, that really gave us a gee up after a tough day.”

Race 1 – AUS win

The opening race kicked off in stunning conditions on the southwest coast of Britain, with the sun shining and a steady breeze of 15-18KM/H. All eyes were on the British fleet as thousands of fans lined the Plymouth Hoe hoping to cheer the home team to victory.

It proved to be a difficult start for the British team who misjudged the light conditions with their pre-race practice time hampered by niggling issues on their F50, resulting in the home team being in last place at the first mark.

It was, conversely, an excellently timed start by Tom Slingsby’s Australia SailGP Team who subsequently led at the first mark, and comfortably extended their lead to win the race, with the USA SailGP Team in second and Billy Besson’s French crew in third.

It was exactly the homecoming Devon-born Nick Hutton, a grinder onboard the Australian F50 who grew up sailing on the River Dart, would have hoped for. The British crew finished the opening race in eighth place.

Race 2 – AUS win

The second race of the day followed a similar formula to the first. It was another difficult start for the British crew, this time due to a penalty for making slight contact with the Australian boat resulting in the team being 27M off the start line at the gun and being docked two vital points from the overall leaderboard.

As six boats, including the British F50, jousted for position at the starboard entry, the French and Australian teams were left to sail away at the port entry, with Tom Slingsby’s crew again rounding the first mark comfortably in the lead.

The Australians held onto and extended their lead throughout the race to go two from two in the event. The most intriguing battle of the race was for second place with the France SailGP Team and Denmark SailGP Team frequently trading positions.

It was the Danish crew that ultimately finished in second place, 37 seconds behind the Australians, recording their best SailGP race finish. The British crew finished in seventh place.

Race 3 – USA win

Going into the final race of the day, Paul Goodison and his crew were keen to give the thousands of home fans something to cheer about, and they duly delivered.

The British team repeated the same pre-start strategy as the previous race, but this time executed it perfectly ensuring they took the lead off the start. The drama at the start line was provided by Phil Robertson’s Spain SailGP Team who received the first ever SailGP black flag and was disqualified from the race after a risky manoeuvre crossing the line.

After the strong start, it proved to be a battle between Goodison’s British and Jimmy Spithill’s American crews for the lead and the race win. The British F50 led the race for two legs, before a small error rounding the first bottom mark gave the USA SailGP Team the chance to grab the lead. Spithill and the American crew consequently held their nerve under pressure from the British, and the French, to win the race by 20 seconds.

The Great Britain SailGP Team finished the final race of the day in a much-improved second place but remain bottom of the overall leaderboard on eight points on the leaderboard. The team headed straight into de-brief and aim to climb the leaderboard tomorrow with a much improved performance for their home supporters.