Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain SailGP Team finished the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix in third place in very light, marginal foiling conditions on the final day resulting in ‘tortoise and hare’ racing, with those able to find any breeze being rewarded handsomely.
After finishing the opening two fleet races of the day in fourth and second respectively, the British team qualified for the final ‘winner-takes-all’ race in first place on the leaderboard, alongside Nathan Outteridge’s Japan SailGP Team and Tom Slingsby’s Australia SailGP Team.
Ultimately, it was the Australians who took the final race win, and with it the Grand Prix, in a final podium race that will be remembered for a penalty call against the British team for being judged to have not given the Japanese enough room at the third mark, which forced the British to give up the chase on the Slingsby’s crew, and let the Japanese past into second place.
Commenting on the final podium race and the penalty decision, Ben Ainslie said: “That last race was a bit of a shocker. We didn’t have a great start, the Aussies sailed well to be fair. We managed to sail past the Japanese and then the umpires came up with one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. I normally don’t moan too much about umpire calls but that was just shocking. That call ruined the race for us and probably for the spectators as well. In the end they are there to do a job, it’s not easy for them, and you’ve just to go with the rub of the green, take it on the chin, and come back fighting for the next one.”
Race 4 - JPN WIN, GBR 4th
In the light conditions all eight boats struggled to foil over the start line. In the reach to the first mark the Spain SailGP Team, returning to action after yesterday's capsize, led the fleet, closely followed by Slinsgby's Australia SailGP Team and Ainslie's British crew.
With the light air prominent across the course, each crew was visibly and audibly looking for any wind they could find. On the first downwind leg it was Outteridge's Japan SailGP team who did the best job of finding what little breeze there was and were able to jump into a lead rounding the second gate, as the race committee shortened the course to just four legs.
The Great Britain SailGP Team rounded that second gate in fifth place, before a strong upwind leg saw Ainslie and his crew move through the fleet. As the 15-minute time limit expired on the race, however, just as the Japan SailGP Team crossed the finish line, it was neck and neck between the Spanish and British boats at the final gate. Ultimately it was the Spanish crew who took third place as standings were taken from the last rounding, with the British in fourth and the Australians taking second place. Japan were subsequently deduced four points for making contact with the France SailGP Team with Pete Burling’s New Zealand team also picking up another two penalty points.
Race 5 - JPN WIN, GBR 2nd
In similarly light conditions it was a dramatic start for Ainslie and his crew as Nicolai Sehested's home Denmark SailGP Team pulled off a manoeuvre at the entry gate that blocked off Pete Burling's New Zealand SailGP Team and the British crew, forcing both boats to turn back on themselves to enter the start gate.
After correctly identifying a noticeable left shift, however, wing trimmer Iain Jensen made the call split from the rest of the fleet on the first leg, and it paid off. The British crew took advantage of the dominant left shift to jump round the first mark in second place, behind Outteridge’s Japan SailGP Team.
From then on, the Japanese and British boats sailed a clean race to finish first and second respectively, ensuring that the Great Britain SailGP Team finished the five fleet races at the top of the leaderboard, and qualified for the final winner-takes-all podium race alongside Slingsby's Australian and Outteridge's Japanese teams.
Podium Race - AUS WIN, GBR 3rd
As the breeze picked up slightly to 15KM/H, it was Slingsby's Australia SailGP Team who crossed the start line first, with the British F50 slightly late over the line. On the first reach the Australian and Japanese teams were able to get foiling first, with the British in third place rounding the first mark.
After rounding the second gate, all three boats fell off their foils and the Great Britain SailGP Team made the decision to manoeuvre early to find more breeze. The decision paid off, as they moved into second place ahead of Outteridge's Japanese team, chasing down Slingsby's Australian crew.
The key incident of the race, however, came at the third gate where in a very marginal call, Ainslie and his crew were judged to not have given Outteridge's Japanese team enough room at the mark, and were subsequently given a penalty by the umpire. By the time the British crew were able to let the Japanese past to clear their penalty on the final leg the race was nearly over as Slinsgby's Australian team crossed the finish line to win their second Grand Prix in a row, with the Japan SailGP Team in second and the British in third.
A third-place finish in the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix leaves Ben Ainslie and his British crew in second place in the overall SailGP Championship leaderboard, two points behind Slinsgby’s Australia SailGP Team. SailGP will resume next month in the France Sail Grand Prix in St. Tropez from 11-12 September.