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Spithill threat triggers Ainslie into 'season-ending' collision at Australia Sail Grand Prix

by United States SailGP Team 17 Dec 2021 07:21 PST 17-18 December 2021
Great Britain SailGP Team pulls up alongside the Japan SailGP Team F50 catamaran after the two collided before the start of Race 3 © David Gray for SailGP

The United States SailGP Team had a front-row seat to a disastrous collision last night at the Australia Sail Grand Prix presented by KPMG between Great Britain and Japan, two of its closest rivals throughout SailGP's Season 2.

Just before the start of race three, as the American and British F50's were fighting for starting position, Great Britain SailGP Team Driver Ben Ainslie failed to see Japan below him resulting in a last-second avoidance maneuver.

The British F50 leapt into the air, its daggerboard cleanly slicing off the entire front of Japan's boat as it landed, causing extensive damage to both boats. No one was injured in the incident.

With Great Britain ruled out of the rest of the Sydney event, and Japan still uncertain it will have a boat to race later today, the incident has significant consequences on the overall leaderboard. Both teams, plus the United States and Australia, are in contention to qualify for the Grand Final in San Francisco, March 26-27 and race for $1 million.

This Sydney event is the penultimate event on the SailGP Season 2 calendar.

U.S. SailGP Team Driver Jimmy Spithill said: "Ben rolled over the front of our boat, and the collision happened right in front of us. Clearly, he just didn't see the Japanese boat."

Ainslie, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, admitted, "We just didn't see the other boat. We were focused on America and worried about the top of the [start] line. The first time I saw Japan was as we were just about to hit them. It's the end of our season in terms of making it to the final race in San Francisco. It will be impossible for us to make it."

SailGP race officials ruled that the British, as the at-fault boat, will receive a six-point event penalty for causing serious damage, plus incur a two-point penalty on their overall season scoring.

USA Focuses on Final Day

After three races today at the Australia Sail Grand Prix, the U.S. SailGP Team is currently tied for second place with Australia, five points behind event leader Spain.

"It's good to walk away from today with a solid result overall," Spithill said. "We are in good shape to qualify for the podium race tomorrow afternoon; as long as we get consistent results in races 4 and 5."

With windier conditions forecast, Spithill said the team's focus will be on sailing clean. "I struggled with my starts today, so I'm really going to try to get off the line in good shape because we've seen what can happen when we lead this fleet."

How to watch

Racing at the Australia Sail Grand Prix presented by KPMG in Sydney starts at 4:00pm local time (12:00am EST) on Friday, December 17 and Saturday, December 18 and will air live in the USA on CBS Sports Network, SailGP's YouTube channel as well as the SailGP APP. Visit SailGP.com/watch for full details.

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