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Great Britain cap off dominating performance with Sydney SailGP title

by SailGP 29 Feb 03:11 PST 28-29 February 2020

Ben Ainslie and the British team wasted no time establishing themselves as the ones to beat this season as they put on impressive performances throughout Sydney SailGP to claim their first event title. The first match race of SailGP Season 2 saw traditional rivals Great Britain and Australia face off and the four-time Olympic gold medalist capped off his debut in style against the defending champion.

Thousands of spectators crowded Sydney Harbour over two days to watch the world's fastest sail racing and see hometown hero Tom Slingsby attempt to fend off Ainslie's challenge.

The match race closely reflected the racing throughout the entire event, as the British team got out to an early lead and was the fastest boat on Sydney Harbour. Slingsby and the Australians found themselves behind from the start, incurring a penalty for entering the start box early and the hosts were unable to pull back.

The victory marked Great Britain's first event win in the global championship.

Ainslie said: "It's certainly been one of the best sailing events I've ever taken part in. Incredible conditions on the harbor, it doesn't really get any better than that. It's been magical."

After the first event of Season 2, Great Britain sits atop the leaderboard with 47 points, followed by Australia with 42, Japan with 39, Spain with 31, the United States at 31 and Denmark with 22, while France rounds out the standings with 14 points.

The first fleet race of the day saw Ainslie pick up where he left off on Friday, notching a fourth-consecutive win while the Australia and Japan teams placed second and third. Olympic champions Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge battled back-and-forth all of Season 1 and it was only fitting that the pair went into race five with a spot in the match race on the line.

Australia jumped out to an early lead that it never relinquished, with Slingsby guiding the defending champion to its first race win of the season and setting up a showdown with Ainslie. While they were unable to reclaim the event title, the Australians showed notable improvement on the second day of racing.

Slingsby said: "We seem to usually go better on our final day. It was nice today to perform when the pressure was on, we knew we had to beat Japan. It was all going well until the last race where we made a big mistake at the start. SailGP Season 2 has already kicked off a lot bigger than last year and I'm looking forward to the next event."

Japan featured in every match race last season and will look to fight its way into the top-two at the next event in San Francisco.

It was an impressive debut performance for the young Spain team and helmsman Phil Robertson, as they earned three second-places finishes over the course of the event and established themselves as podium contenders for Season 2.

The fellow newcomer in 2020 - the Denmark SailGP Team presented by ROCKWOOL - finished the event sixth but showed flashes of high-level ability throughout the two days of competition. After sustaining damage to its boat and having to retire from two races on the first day, Billy Besson's French team finished seventh.

Rome Kirby and the United States team finished fifth and will look to gain ground on the leaderboard when the global championship returns to San Francisco Bay on May 2-3. At the first U.S event of Season 2, all seven boats will be boosted by the addition of a first-of-its-kind modular wingsail that will likely allow the F50s to fly at record-breaking speeds.

SailGP Season 2 Overall Leaderboard

1. Great Britain - 47 pts
2. Australia - 42 pts
3. Japan - 39 pts
4. Spain - 31 pts *9 points deducted from total score
5. United States 31 pts
6. Denmark - 22 pts *2 points deducted from total score
7. France - 14 pts

Individual Sydney SailGP Race Results

Match Race

1. Great Britain
2. Australia

Race 5

1. Australia - 10 pts
2. Spain - 9 pts
3. Japan - 8 pts
4. Great Britain - 7 pts
5. United States - 6 pts
6. Denmark - 5 pts 7. France - 4 pts

Race 4

1. Great Britain - 10 pts
2. Australia - 9 pts
3. Japan - 8 pts
4. Spain - 7 pts
5. United States - 6 pts
6. France - 5 pts
7. Denmark - 4 pts

Race 3

1. Great Britain - 10 pts
2. Spain - 9 pts
3. Japan - 8 pts
4. United States - 7 pts
5. Australia - 6 pts
6. Denmark - 5 pts
7. France - 0 pts *Did not start

Race 2

1. Great Britain - 10 pts
2. Spain - 9 pts
3. Australia - 8 pts
4. Japan - 7 pts
5. Denmark - 6 pts
6. United States - 5 pts
7. France - 0 pts *Did not start

Race 1

1. Great Britain - 10 pts
2. Australia - 9 pts
3. Japan - 8 pts
4. United States - 7 pts
5. Spain - 6 pts
6. France - 5 pts
7. Denmark - 4 pts

Update from Great Britain SailGP Team presented by INEOS

The day began with a tight start line in the first fleet race, where all seven supercharged F50s were back racing after France were forced to retire yesterday due to a collision with the new Spain SailGP Team. Commenting on his first race win of the day, Ainslie said: "A few of the other teams were over the line at the start and this just opened it up for us, it was a nice race!" Taking the win in this took the pressure of the Brits for a while as they it meant they secured a place in the match race final with a race to spare.

The wind on the race-course today was a lot lighter than during the action on day one which meant a different set up for the teams and new challenges to overcome.

The conditions for the second race of day 2 in Sydney weren't so kind to the four-time Olympic champion and his team. Having led the charge across the start line, the Brits were seen suddenly dropping from first to last in a matter of seconds as they watched their six rival nations - Australia, Denmark, France, Japan, Spain and United States - fly past in the standings. When questioned, Ainslie said: "We got stuck on Steel Point and just couldn't get going again, basically becalmed, so that was a bit disappointing."

The eagerly anticipated race between Season 1 Champions Australia and the British SailGP Team was ultimately won on the start line as Australia's sailing superstar, Tom Slingsby, was penalised for an early entry into the start box. He said: "Apparently we were a quarter of a second early, I thought we were OK, but we weren't. To get rid of that penalty in the pre-start, in no wind, meant we were a sitting duck really."

Ainslie however had a clear game plan in the match race: "We were asked which end of the line we wanted and normally you would say we'll take the port entry and get in there first and get control. But we had a look at the start box and realised the wind was so patchy and shifty, actually that entry would be tough to keep the boat moving as we'd have to throw in a couple of manoeuvres and we didn't want to get caught out like we had before."

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