Ben Ainslie and the Great Britain SailGP Team won the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix with a dramatic winner-takes-all final podium race.
After the struggles of the first day of the SailGP season opener in Bermuda, Ainslie and his British SailGP team dominated the second day with a ‘take-no-prisoners’ attitude typical of Anislie’s best championship racing.
After finishing the first day in sixth place (of eight) and losing several winning positions, it was not looking good for the Brits with just two races to turn it around.
The up-tick in performance was there from the start of the the first race, R4, with Ainslie leading at the first mark and holding it throughout the race to take a comfortable 35 second win ahead of the Tom Slingsby and the Australian Team, third were the Spanish team of Phil Robertson.
During this race the USA and Japan SailGP Teams heavily collided, the USA later capsizing, forcing both to retire from further racing.
Everything now depended on making the top three in the fifth and final full fleet race.
After another full on start Ainslie needed to overtake the Spanish or French to get into the Final and he managed that when the Spanish almost lost a man overboard in a quick manouver.
The Brits were into second place behind the Aussie boat for the final downwind leg crossing the finish in second as Billy Besson and the French team took fourth behind the Spanish.
The Final, winner takes all race, consisted of the Australians, the British and the French teams.
A third strong start of the day for all three teams led to a drag race to the first mark, with the British just taking the lead and managing to keep the Australians behind them in their dirty air, whilst the French split.
In strengthening winds of up to 25 knots, control was the name of the game Great Britain’s wing trimmer Iain ‘Goobs’ Jensen and flight controller Luke ‘Parko’ Parkinson expertly piloted the team’s F50 to both keep the manoeuvres smooth and put as much ‘dirty air’ on the Australian boat behind.
The neck-and-neck action continued throughout the race, with the both the British and Australian teams splitting at several points, to seek better pressure to extend the lead or to find an overtaking lane.
At gate 4 Ainslie led as they split gates, with boatspeed for Ainslie at first looking slower, but then picking up to stretch a 200+ metre lead on the final beat.
A final boundry tack saw the Aussie and British teams tack together with Ainslie leading to the final mark and on to the finish line.
Second was Tom Slingsby AUS, and third Billy Besson FRA.
The British team won the podium race and with it took the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess title by just four seconds.
Speaking from onboard the team’s F50 as the celebrations began, both for winning the Grand Prix and for grinder Neil Hunter’s birthday, helm Ben Ainslie added:
“That was a cracking day of racing. That’s what we want to do, go up against these guys in conditions like this. It was just perfect.”
“It still wasn’t perfect, but the team just sailed the boat really well. We tried to give the Australians a little luff out of mark one and got quite close to a penalty but then it was all on that following gybe out of the boundary and the guys nailed it.”
“The guys onboard, especially Parko flying the boat when we weren’t 100% in terms of control, did an awesome job.”
SailGP resumes in Taranto for the Italy Sail Grand Prix on 5 June 2021.
The Great Britain SailGP Team’s home Grand Prix takes place in Plymouth on 17 and 18 July 2021.