Photography by Roman Liebich / SailGP
06 March 2020
The opening act of SailGP Season 2 saw new teams and old foes clashing on the water for the first event in 2020 in front of a bumper crowd on the shore and on water.
Ocean Media for the second year running, was appointed as the Official Sydney SailGP Adrenaline Program Partner, and lead with the prime position for a fantastic day trackside, nestled in the Exclusion Zone. Throughout the day, drinks flowed and delicious food was served as guests on board the Ocean Club’s private chartered motor yacht A.Q.A. enjoyed front row seats for the most exciting fleet racing in the world.
The racing didn’t disappoint, with intense action in stunning conditions, with winds reaching 14 knots. The country’s greatest amphitheatre, Sydney Harbour played host to seven F50s all looking to get their hands on the trophy.
Fierce national rivalries were reignited with the entry of Sir Ben Ainslie to the British squad. Ainslie, the most successful sailor in Olympic history, had a debut to remember as he skippered the Great Britain team to victory in all three races on Day One of the season-opening Sydney SailGP leg.
Ainslie praised the conditions, as well as the work of his team.
“You can’t really ask for better conditions than that. There were a lot of difficult manoeuvres to be executed, but I think our team did a great job and the guys on the boat were fantastic.
I’m still learning this boat and I have a fantastic team around me, which is key.”
Ainslie, competing in SailGP for the first time in the Championship’s second season, had been identified by last year’s top-finishing helmsmen Slingsby (Australia) and Nathan Outteridge (Japan) as the man to watch, and their prophecies came to fruition with a dominant display securing Great Britain a maximum of 30 points on a dramatic afternoon.
The atmosphere on the sidelines was just as electric, as guests enjoyed not only the racing but also the onboard networking.
Sydney Harbour lived up to its reputation as one of the world’s finest sailing venues, delivering near perfect conditions that saw the record-breaking F50s regularly fly at speeds near 40 knots.
“It was a tough day at the office. We just made too many mistakes. I think we’re as quick as anyone but the Great Britain team isn’t making mistakes like we’re making. It looks more like we’re the rookies. We just have to come back stronger tomorrow,” Australia SailGP Team Helmsman Tom Slingsby said on the day. “We know we can beat Ben and his team.”
“The whole fleet is racing at a higher level than last year, and when we’re not sailing that great it shows.”
While much of the attention going into the event was around the brewing rivalry between Ainslie and Slingsby, the most tense moment of the day involved debutant Spain and France.
Phil Robertson and the Spanish team were heading toward a race boundary and lost rights to France and eventually clipped the French F50. After a strong start in the race, Billy Besson’s team was forced to retire from the final two races.
The SailGP race jury determined the Spain team inflicted serious damage to the French boat, docking the newcomers nine total points – five points from the first race and an additional two points for each of the final two races that France was forced to miss.
While its place in the standings was hurt by the collision and subsequent point deduction, Robertson and the Spanish team had an otherwise strong debut performance, finishing second in the final two races and showing the new crew will be competitive this season.
Fellow newcomer Denmark SailGP Team presented by ROCKWOOL was also assessed a two-point penalty for making contact with the Japanese boat in the first race.
Despite the penalties, Spain and Denmark, both young teams, plenty of exciting glimpses.