Ben Ainslie and his Great Britain SailGP Team will be back on the racetrack for the first event of SailGP Season 3 this weekend, 14/15 May.
The 2022/23 SailGP season opens with the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess on the Great Sound, with more teams and more event venues for the fast-growing high-speed F50 circuit . . . the nearest thing that sailing has to the glitz and glamour of Formula 1 motor racing.
Ainslie finished Season 2 in fourth place (of eight) after a season that had promised much but effectively ended with a crash in the Sydney GP that wiped out the Japan team boat, driven by Nathan Outerridge, and required Ainslie’s boat to be handed over to Outerridge for the rest of the event.
That crash ruled the British team out of any chance of reaching the $1 million-dollar Grand Final in San Francisco.
For season 3, with two new teams – Canada and Switzerland – and an extended 11 (possibly 12) event series Ainslie must be hoping for a third-time-lucky season to get the Great Britain SailGP team back on track.
Following the poor performance of the British America’s Cup team at the AC36 event in New Zealand, where once again the British challenger arrived hopelessly off the pace, a good performance straight-out of the blocks in this high-profile series would help to calm some jangled nerves.
In both events – AC36 and SailGP – critics have pointed to Ainslie’s close involvement in both the helming and the organisation of the teams, leading to a lack of focus.
SailGP’s international broadcast commentator Stevie Morrison commented that Ainslie had ended up in ‘a few too many conversations with the jury’ and was ‘ultimately too involved’.
Ainslie is renowned for performance under pressure and we all need some of that fighting spirit right now!
With Ainslie on the helm, his F50 crew in Bermuda consists of fellow Olympic gold medallist Iain Jensen (AUS), who returns as Wing Trimmer, and Flight Controller Luke Parkinson (GBR / AUS).
The grinder roles, meanwhile, are filled by Olympic gold winning rower Matt Gotrel (GBR), and the Isle of Arran’s Neil Hunter (GBR).
And joining the team for SailGP Season 3, are two new recruits . . . Nikki Boniface (GBR) joins via SailGP’s Women’s Pathway Program, after working her way up through youth championships and Olympic campaigns.
Nick Hutton (GBR), meanwhile, comes in as trimmer/ grinder bringing a wealth of F50 expertise with him and fresh from helping Australia to victory in Season 2.
Finally, current world sailor of the year Hannah Mills OBE (GBR) completes the squad line up for her second Season with the team in the strategist role but will not compete in Bermuda.
Best place to watch it all kick-off?
Most likely for those here in the UK it will be a choice of Sky if you have their Sports channel or YouTube, and the link will be live here Saturday for 18:00 hrs.