MINEFIELD OF CONDITIONS IN DENMARK SEES GREAT BRITAIN SAILGP TEAM BATTLE BACK TO FINISH DAY ONE IN SECOND PLACE OVERALL
After a two-event absence, Ben Ainslie returned to racing with the Great Britain SailGP Team Friday in Aarhus, Denmark. The British team capped off the opening day with a race win to move into second place in the standings ahead of the all-important second and final day of the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix.
Denmark’s second biggest city threw up a minefield of a racecourse on the first day of racing close to the city. 40-degree wind shifts saw constant place changes, and no one team dominating.
Commenting after the day’s high-octane action, Ben Ainslie said: “That was a fun day. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for all the teams, ourselves included. The conditions were tricky which made for some great racing as the gains and losses were huge.
"In the first race we battled hard. It was a really close race with four or five teams going for the overall win. We thought we had it going into the final gate but unfortunately we couldn’t pull off that final tack which was frustrating. At this level you can’t afford to make too many mistakes like that.
“The second race was also a bit frustrating. We were mid-fleet and couldn’t get in tune with the wind shifts. Then, I was really pleased how the team regrouped for the final race. We got off the start nicely and sailed a clean race for a solid win. All to play for tomorrow.”
RACE 1 – DEN WIN, GBR 4TH
The day’s drama had started before racing in the pre-race practice when a capsize for the young Spain SailGP Team, led by Phil Robertson, resulted in damage to their F50, ending their day before racing had begun. With Ainslie back behind the wheel and eager to get back in the action, a good start for the British team in the first race meanwhile saw them round the first reach mark in third place, chasing the home Denmark SailGP Team, led by Nicolai Sehested.
At the first gate, the Great Britain SailGP Team continued to chase down the Danish crew, whilst Pete Burling’s New Zealand SailGP Team and Nathan Outteridge’s Japan SailGP Team split to the right-hand side of the course. The split paid off for the Kiwis, and Pete Burling was now leading the fleet. The lead changes kept coming thick and fast.
As the fleet approached the final mark in light air close to the city, the British F50 had snuck into the lead, but a bad tack saw the Brits fall off their foils at the crucial moment and watch the Danish, Australian and New Zealand boats all pass. The loudest cheer of the day came for the hometown heroes Denmark winning their first ever SailGP race in front of the home crowd. Ben Ainslie’s crew finished the opening race in fourth.
RACE 2 – USA WIN, GBR 5TH
The Great Britain SailGP Team didn’t get in phase with the shifts and the fluctuating breeze in the second race of the day. Jimmy Spithill’s USA SailGP Team took an impressive win after a last-minute crew change due to their wing trimmer, Paul Campbell-James, breaking his leg in training the day before. The Australia SailGP Team, led by Tom Slingsby, managed to pick boats off in the final metres to take second place, with the British finishing in fifth.
RACE 3 – GBR WIN
In the final race of the day Ainslie and the British crew nailed the start to take the early lead with the Kiwis hot on their tail. One mistake by Burling, however, saw Ainslie pull away from the fleet to finish with a race win, 41 seconds ahead of second placed New Zealand, with Slingsby again finding a way through the fleet for the Australian boat to finish in third.
The ‘snakes-and-ladders’ of a day leaves the leaderboard very tight, only two points separating Slingsby’s Australians in first, Ainslie’s Brits in second and Spithill’s Americans in third. Lighter winds are expected for the final day of racing at the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix. The stakes are high in the final two fleet races to see who can make it through to the final three boat winner-takes-all podium race.
Overall leaderboard after three races:
• AUS 18
• GBR 17
• USA 16
• DEN 15
• NZL 14 (2 points deducted for contact with FRA)
• JPN 13
• FRA 6 (4 points deducted for contact with NZL)
• ESP 0
The action continues in the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix live on Sky Sports from 12PM BST on Saturday August 21, and is also free to view on SailGP’s YouTube channel. For full viewing details visit sailgp.com/watch.
text and image courtesy SailGP