Ben Ainslie’s team won just a single fleet race across the two-day event, but put in the perfect performance when it mattered in the Final to beat Tom Slingsby’s Aussies and claim top spot in the Season 2 leaderboard after the opening event.
Great Britain and Australia were joined by France in the Final, with Billy Besson’s team securing its first podium finish in SailGP. The United States propped up the event leaderboard with new helm Jimmy Spithill enduring an unlucky debut, as in race four Japan collided with the US boat and caused damage serious enough to rule the team out the final fleet race of the event.
Denmark and Japan ranked sixth and seventh respectively, with New Zealand improving from its poor opening day performance to end the weekend in fifth place. Spain, who finished third in both of day two’s fleet races, missed out on qualifying for the Final by just a single point and finished the event in fourth.
Great Britain won the most recent SailGP event – in Sydney last February – and has made it two wins from two in the league. Speaking from the British F50 following the victory, skipper Ainslie said: “It was a cracking race. It was awesome.
“It’s what we want to do it for; go against these guys in conditions like this – it was just perfect.
“I’ve got to give huge credit to the team, as we really struggled yesterday, but we worked hard trying to analyse what was going wrong; it was a big team effort. It’s also the big man Neil’s [Hunter, GBR grinder] birthday, so we thought we better sign off on a good note.”
He continued: “We weren’t at our best yesterday; we had issues with the set-up of the boat – to be honest it’s still not perfect – but we just dealt with it. So it was a good one.”
Slingsby helmed his team to four fleet race wins over the two days to sit top of the leaderboard heading into the Final – 13 points ahead of the British – but the Aussies fell victim to the winner-takes-all format of SailGP’s Final race.
“It was a great race,” said Slingsby. “We feel a little hard done by, as we sailed so well all week.
“But those are the rules – you’ve got to win that last race, we knew it when we signed up, and we were close but not quite there.”
Australia’s dominance on day one gave way to a much more dramatic second day, with race four boasting not only a different winner – Great Britain – but also a collision between Japan and the United States and an eventual capsize by the US team. Damage caused by the collision ruled both teams out the final fleet race of the event, which became a six-team shootout to qualify, along with Australia, for the Final.
The Final itself was a similarly dramatic affair, with the Brits and the Aussies exchanging the lead in plus-20 knot conditions before Ainslie made it two event wins in SailGP by crossing the finish line only four seconds ahead of fierce rival Slingsby.