Sir Ben Ainslie revels in SailGP’s need for speed
Sir Ben Ainslie says it “does not get much better” to win the inaugural Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess and break the F50 speed record on the same day.
Ainslie and his Great Britain SailGP team-mates set a record of 94.8km/h (59.9mph) at last month’s regatta in the Great Sound en route to qualifying for the winner-takes-all final, where they upstaged rivals Australia, the champions, and France to clinch the title and complete a remarkable comeback.
“We really struggled on the opening day, but we kept our heads high and went through all the issues and tried to work them out,” Ainslie, the team’s helmsman and chief executive, told The Royal Gazette. “This resulted in a much better second day, which was a cracking day of racing.
“To achieve the SailGP race speed record and win the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix on the same day, it does not get much better!”
Ainslie’s team set the record rounding the first mark in the fourth race of the six-race series of the delayed SailGP Season 2 opener to eclipse the previous mark in the wing-sailed foiling catamaran of 92.6km/h held by Australia.
Great Britain are no strangers to setting records having 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).
Last month’s triumph on island was the second for Great Britain, having won the original season two opener in Sydney, Australia, in February 2020 on their SailGP debut before their title was voided after the season was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic also impacted the inaugural Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess as the Government imposed tighter restrictions to combat a spike in Covid-19 cases on island.
Plans were scrapped to have as many as 650 spectators view the event live at its racing facility at Cross Island as well as on ticketed charter boats while all operations at the venue were also temporarily suspended in compliance with the Covid-19 restrictions.
Spectators were allowed to view the racing from their private boats under the condition they did not mix households.
“It has been a tough period for everyone around the world and we felt incredibly lucky to be in Bermuda racing again,” Ainslie, the most decorated Olympic sailor, added.
“It was also great to have the local community supporting the event and able to watch the action from the water. We owe a huge thanks to the local authorities and event organisers who helped run a safe event and we hope to return next season in a more open environment so we can all enjoy the racing together as one.”
Bermuda’s waters have proved to be a happy hunting ground for Ainslie throughout a career that has seen him win medals (four gold, one silver) at five consecutive Olympics, 11 world titles and the America’s Cup as a tactician with defender Oracle Team USA.
He won the gold medal in the Laser Radial class at the 1995 ISAF Youth Worlds that the island hosted as well as back-to-back wins in the King Edward VII Gold Cup in 2009 and 2010.
“Bermuda is one of my favourite racing venues in the world with its welcoming hospitality, beautiful surroundings and varying conditions that tests your skill set,” Ainslie said.
“The Great Sound has become a racetrack I know well, having first sailed there in the Laser Youth Worlds, then numerous World Match Racing Tour events before living and competing on the Island for the 35th America’s Cup.
“The whole team was excited to begin SailGP season two and Bermuda did not disappoint with great conditions and stand out racing on both days of the regatta.”