Ben Ainslie’s Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team has leapfrogged from fourth to second in the overall SailGP Season 4 standings after a consummate performance in Taranto, Italy saw the British crew claim their second event win in two weeks.
The two days of the ROCKWOOL Italy SailGP Taranto regatta saw markedly different breeze strengths, with Saturday’s 20-knot plus winds contrasting with the drifting conditions which prevailed on Sunday.
Nevertheless, Ainslie’s British squad – flight controller Luke Parkinson, wing trimmer Iain Jensen, strategist Hannah Mills, grinders Neil Hunter, Nick Hutton, and Matt Gottrel – strung together an impressively consistent series that not once saw them finish outside the top three in the fleet races.
The British crew did not always start perfectly, but importantly, they did not have any disastrous ones and although they regularly rounded the first turning marks in a mid-fleet position were consistently able to punch their way back into contention for a podium position by the end of the first run.
The British 2,2,3,1,2 tally made them comfortable winners of the fleet racing section and earned them a place in the three-way winner-take-all final race alongside Tom Slingsby’s Season 4 leaders Australia and Jimmy Spithill’s United States crew.
If the winds had been light for Sunday’s earlier two fleet races then the conditions for the final race were as close to a flat calm as you could get.
Despite the virtual glassout across the racecourse the three crews were somehow able to coax their foiling catamarans across the startline, around the first turn, down the run and onto the final beat before the 16 minute time limit ran out.
All three held the lead at some point in the driftathon and when time was called and the race was abandoned the British had just picked up a puff that had all but swept them past the Australian and American F50s.
Under SailGP’s rules for this scenario – which, amusingly, none of the crews seemed to know offhand – dictate that the final results revert to the standings at the end of the fleet racing – giving the British a well-earned victory ahead of Australia and the United States.
The British victory comes on the back of their previous win in Saint Tropez, France two weeks ago – their first of the season – and puts Ainslie’s team in second place overall – tied on 29 points with the Diego Botin’s Spanish crew and six points adrift of Slingsby’s Australian team.
At the prize giving ceremony, Ainslie gave the team’s strategist Hannah Mills credit for the Taranto victory – citing her excellent ability to spot the best conditions to get the boat to the front of the fleet – and it was Mills that proudly lifted the winners trophy aloft.
For Ainslie himself the SailGP win will come as a well timed confidence boost after what he had described as a ‘bruising’ result at the America’s Cup preliminary event in Vilanova i la Geltrú, Spain the previous weekend.
Next up on the SailGP schedule is the final European event in Cadiz, Spain over the weekend of October 14/15.
Full results here.