Photography by Roman Liebich / SailGP
Situated inside the Exclusion Zone, guests on board A.Q.A. were in prime position to witness rivals Tom Slingsby and Ben Ainslie go head-to-head, as their teams Australia and Great Britain battled it out in the Match Race Final for the Season 2 opener of SailGP.
The second day of Sydney SailGP started much the same as the previous day, with stunning conditions on Sydney Harbour, with a steady breeze ideal for fleet racing.
During breaks in the fleet races, Ocean Club guests discussed battle tactics while enjoying hors d’oeuvre and drinks on the flybridge of A.Q.A., drinking in the sunshine and taking in the race atmosphere on the harbour.
Ben Ainslie and his Great Britain SailGP Team presented by INEOS continued their strong performance, securing a win in race four but dropping to fourth in race five, allowing the Australia SailGP Team to squeeze into the Final.
Taking the win in the first race of day two alleviated the pressure for the Brits, with the win meaning they secured a place in the match race final with a race to spare.
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!”
The second race of day two wasn’t so kind to the four-time Olympic champion and his team. Having led the charge across the start line, the Brits dropped off completely, unable to get going in light winds. The team were able to make up ground, eventually finishing in fourth.
“We got stuck on Steel Point and just couldn’t get going again, basically becalmed, so that was a bit disappointing,” Ainslie explained.
Meanwhile, the Australian team jumped out to an early lead over Nathan Outteridge’s Japan team, allowing them to win their first race of the season and setting up a tantalising final with Ainslie.
In the match race 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.
“Apparently we were a quarter of a second early, I thought we were OK, but we weren’t,” reflected Slingsby. “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.”
The British team of Ben Ainslie, Luke Parkinson, Iain Jensen, Matt Gotrel, Richard Mason and Neil Hunter showed nerves of steel to cross the finish line to be crowned champions of Sydney SailGP, proving they will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
The teams will now look ahead to the second event of SailGP Season 2 which returns to San Francisco on 2-3 May. With stronger winds and new modular wings, the event will likely see some teams breaking the 50-knot mark again.