Race-by-race: Australia off to perfect SailGP defence with opening-day sweep
Australia got their SailGP title defence off to the perfect start with a clean sweep of victories in a dominant performance on the opening day of the second season on Bermuda’s Great Sound.
Despite more than a year away from racing, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, skipper Tom Slingsby and his crew showed no signs of rustiness, picking up where they left off in the inaugural season to claim the maximum 30 points in the opening day of the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess, and send an ominous warning to their rivals.
There were also encouraging performances from France, helmed by Billy Besson and Japan, led by Nathan Outteridge, who managed to muscle in on the top three positions to stand in good stead heading into tomorrow — both tied on 23 points overall.
Slightly farther back, Jimmy Spithill and the United States team sit ten points adrift of the leaders. Spain are a further point behind but ahead of Sir Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain, who endured a day of mixed fortunes.
It was also a difficult outing for Peter Burling and New Zealand, whose lack of racing practice showed throughout the day. Having finished no higher than sixth in any of the races, they find themselves bottom of the standings, alongside Denmark on 11 points.
France seized the early initiative out of the start box closely followed by Australia and the United States.
By the midway stage, France had further built on their promising start as the US and Australia gave chase, with the Spanish team also well placed in fourth.
Australia mounted a fightback and that pressure finally told in the penultimate leg as they not only managed to reel in France but moved clear of them and into the lead.
Meanwhile, in the chasing pack, the US found themselves cut off by Britain heading into a mark, resulting in Ainslie drawing a decisive penalty. Unfortunately for Spithill, that opened the door for Outteridge and Japan to edge into third, ahead of the US.
Having successfully navigated the final mark, Australia cruised to finish line to seal the first win of the series and get their title defence off to the perfect start.
An impressive outing from Besson was rewarded with France finishing second, ahead of Japan, who made up for a stuttering start with a strong late surge.
The US would have been disappointed to drop from second early on to settle for fourth, narrowly ahead of Spain. New Zealand, in their maiden outing, crossed the line in sixth. The costly penalty resulted in Britain finishing in seventh while Denmark did not finish.
Finishing order: Australia (10pts), France (9), Japan (8), United States (7), Spain (6), New Zealand (5), Great Britain (4), Denmark (1).
In a much more straightforward race for Australia, a second successive victory never looked in doubt from the early stages.
Building on the momentum of the opening race; Australia once again got off to a flying start, leaving the box already on their foils with Japan and Spain in close pursuit. The United States meanwhile; were handed a penalty before they had even crossed the start line.
Australia’s lead gradually built leg by leg and, by the fifth, they found themselves with more than a 20-second advantage over Japan. Farther back, another mistake by Ainslie proved costly once again as a poor manoeuvre resulted in Britain dropping off their foils, losing all momentum and falling to seventh.
There was to be no stopping the defending champions, who sailed clear of their rivals to seal a second straight win and another ten points. Japan once again finished inside the top three, sealing second place ahead Spain, who avoided disaster on the final mark, rescuing a near capsize before regaining composure.
Also building on the momentum of an impressive first race, France crossed the line in fourth, narrowly ahead of Denmark, who just like Spain also came close to capsizing on the final mark.
Meanwhile, the final three places were taken up by arguably some of the greatest sailors competing, with Spithill’s US in sixth ahead of Ainslie’s Britain and Burling’s New Zealand in eighth.
Finishing order: Australia (10pts), Japan (9), Spain (8), France (7), Denmark (6), United States (5), Great Britain (4), New Zealand (3).
Making amends for a poor showing in the first two races, Great Britain finally found some rhythm to seize the early initiative in the final race. Australia led the chase with Spain once again starting strongly, close behind in third.
By the fifth leg the race had become a two-team battle for victory. Opting to take different paths to either side of the racecourse, the lead switched between Britain and Australia continuously in the run-up to the mark with mere metres between them.
However, just as they had done previously in the day, Australia, led by Slingsby, kept their composure to remain mistake-free, seizing a clear lead in the final stages. Having rounded the final mark, all that was left was for the jubilant Australians to cross the line and complete a perfect day.
Ainslie would have been satisfied with the impressive turn of form in the final race to finish second, as would Spithill, with the US claiming third place.
France capped an encouraging opening day to finish fourth ahead of Japan, who will also be pleased with their endeavours. Spain narrowly pipped Denmark to sixth place in a sprint for the line, while Burling and New Zealand have much to do after finishing last for the second straight race.
Finishing order: Australia (10pts), Great Britain (9), United States (8), France (7), Japan (6), Spain (5), Denmark (4), New Zealand (3).
Overall after Day 1: Australia (30pts), France (23), Japan (23), United States (20), Spain (19), Great Britain (17), Denmark (11), New Zealand (11).
• Two more fleet races are scheduled for tomorrow, with the top three teams advancing to the winners-take-all final showdown.