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Great Britain set new SailGP speed record in series opener

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Need for speed: Great Britain set a new F50 record in last month’s Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess

Great Britain SailGP’s triumph at last month’s inaugural Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess got even sweeter after it was confirmed they had broken the F50 speed record in the process.

SailGP announced this week that Sir Ben Ainslie’s team set a record of 94.8km/h (59.9mph) in the Great Sound to eclipse the previous mark in the wing-sailed foiling catamaran of 92.6km/h (57.5mph) held by champions Australia SailGP Team.

Team Great Britain set the new speed record rounding the first mark in the fourth race of the six-race series of the delayed SailGP Season 2 opener.

“Race four, mark one was a huge moment of the event in Bermuda," Neil Hunter, the Team Great Britain grinder said to the SailGP website. “It was the first bear away for the fleet using these new little ‘baby’ wings in big breeze.

“Going around and hitting the F50 record racing speed of 94.8 km/h, with all the fleet rounding the mark super close, just shows us the development of these boats. “It's one to remember — it was phenomenal!”

Ainslie and his team-mates came from behind to win the crucial fourth race. It proved to be a significant turning point in their campaign having gone into the final day of racing sixth among the eight international teams competing.

Team Great Britain snatched the lead for good from the Australians heading up the first beat.

The two teams were on opposite laylines approaching the weather gate and when they crossed the Australians were hit with a penalty for failing to stay clear of their rivals who had the right of way on starboard tack.

It proved to be a costly error which all but clinched it for Ainslie’s team.

Team Great Britain also came from behind to win the winner-takes-all final also featuring runners up Australia and France SailGP Team.

Team Australia led by roughly half a boat length past the first mark. But Ainslie’s team had the advantage as the leeward boat and forced their rivals to the edge of the course boundary before gybing over to port and surging ahead for good heading to the bottom gate.

The triumph was a second on the SailGP circuit for Team Great Britain having burst on to the scene with victory at their debut regatta and original season two opener in Sydney, Australia, in February 2020.

However, their title was voided after the season was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dubbed as the fastest sail race boat in the world, the F50 is the first to hit 50 knots during racing and was crowned World Sailing’s 2019 Boat of the Year.

Coincidentally, it was Ainslie’s team who achieved the historic feat of breaking the sport’s 50-knot speed barrier during training ahead of the Cowes SailGP event, which they hosted in August 2019.

The team’s F50 was clocked travelling at a record speed of 50.22 knots (58mph or 93km/h).

On a personal note, Ainslie’s triumph at the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess was his first on these shores since winning the King Edward VII Gold Cup for the second straight year in 2010.

The most decorated Olympic sailor’s maiden success in Bermuda was at the 1995 ISAF Youth Worlds that the island hosted when he won the gold medal in the Laser Radial class.

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Published May 15, 2021 at 8:08 am (Updated May 15, 2021 at 1:20 pm)

Great Britain set new SailGP speed record in series opener

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