Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team has blasted onto the San Francisco racecourse with aggressive intention, rattling Quentin Delapierre’s France in a brutal fight for the third spot in the winner-takes-all Grand Final.
Ben Ainslie’s crew played havoc with the French throughout all three fleet races, blocking them in the pre-starts and piling pressure on the Delapierre. Meanwhile, Ainslie’s crew executed a near-flawless performance, finishing the day with two second place finishes and a race win.
But Delapierre’s team floundered at the back of the pack, falling off the foils and drifting backwards through the fleet to finish with a 6-8-6 fleet racing record.
It was a characteristically impressive performance from Tom Slingsby’s two-time defending champions Australia, who picked up a 1-3-1 racing record and finished at the top of the race event leaderboard tied on 28 points with Emirates GBR.
Peter Burling’s New Zealand, currently in second place overall, had a tricky first day but fought hard to move up through the pack, finishing the day with a 4-7-3 race record and in third overall with 19 points.
The current standings mean that Emirates GBR would replace France in the three-boat showdown, with the British team currently sitting five points clear of Delapierre’s crew.
The Kiwis remain in second place overall with 81 points, four points clear of Emirates GBR and 13 behind Slingsby’s Australia - the only team to have qualified for the Grand Final shootout.
Speaking after racing, Ainslie said his plan heading into fleet racing was based on ‘winging it’.
“It’s been pretty fluid out here but (…) we’ve just got to focus on the racing,” he said. “The team is working hard on executing the maneuvers - we had a wobble in the first race, a cleaner one in the second so we’ve just got to keep trying to do that and put pressure on the French.”
Elsewhere, crews struggled with patchy wind conditions and fought to find pressure as they went head to head against the iconic backdrop of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The day was packed with dramatic, boat-on-boat incidents, with France nearly capsizing in an effort to avoid Canada in the first fleet race of the day.
Racing resumes at 14.30 PDT on Sunday, May 7. Full broadcast information and How to Watch details are HERE.