Sir Ben Ainslie looks to kickstart season with win on home waters in Plymouth
Sir Ben Ainslie looks to kickstart season with win on home waters
After two wins from two events and with two championships from two seasons, Tom Slingsby and the Australia SailGP Team remain the firm focus of the other eight drivers ahead of the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in Plymouth – Britain's Ocean City – this weekend. The greatest challenge to the supremacy of the team looks to be coming from a determined Sir Ben Ainslie, making his home waters SailGP debut in Plymouth Sound.
Ainslie said: "I think inevitably when you get Aussies and Brits going at each other you're always going to get a niggle, it's great because we want to be racing against the best talent, and Tom and his team have been really turning it on, but I think all the teams have the ability to win events. Yes we've got some rivalries and yes it's good to have that motivation but any of these teams can come out and win events, so it's a long way to go in the season."
It's a packed schedule for Ainslie, as his team mate for racing on Sunday is The Duchess of Cambridge, who will be joining the Great Britain team for a special 'Commonwealth race'. The race, which will take place ahead of the official final day's racing, will see Great Britain take on UN Patron for the Ocean Lewis Pugh alongside Peter Burling and Blair Tuke on the New Zealand F50, with the race commentated live in the official SailGP fan village. The Duchess will also be visiting the SailGP event site in her role as the patron of the 1851 Trust, the official charity of the Great Britain SailGP Team.
"She's a really good sailor in her own right, she has sailed with me on foiling boats as well and we're expecting a little bit of extra help, given she's sailed across the Atlantic," Ainslie said.
After a disappointing home performance at the last event in Chicago – the T-Mobile United States Sail Grand Prix at Navy Pier – Jimmy Spithill said it wasn't hosting duties that led to his team's poor results and he didn't anticipate Ainslie would be adversely affected by a busy schedule this weekend.
Spithill said: "I think Ben will be just fine managing his time, it's not his first rodeo. For us in Chicago, sure, it's busy. But every team is going to go through that at the home event, but in our case it didn't affect the results at all. In a lot of ways we actually found it encouraging, you get to see that hometown support and the amount of interest. It will be a heavily attended event."
Slingsby meanwhile wouldn't be drawn on talk of the event as an 'Ashes on water', a nod to the biannual cricket series between Australia and England, saying he couldn't afford to focus too much on Ainslie.
"We love playing up the rivalry, but honestly for us it's just another event where we've got to do well. Competing against Ben and his team you know you're competing against the best, and we're excited to race here again, but the level of the fleet has jumped up so much, you can't focus on one boat too much," Slingsby said.
Not to be forgotten after two top-three finishes to start its debut season, the Canada SailGP Team led by Phil Robertson will be looking to continue its stunning start to racing the F50 and claim a first event win.
Plymouth is the third of 11 confirmed venues (with the Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney announced last month) that will form the Season 3 calendar. Copenhagen, Denmark, is the next stop for SailGP, before the fleet visits Saint-Tropez, Cádiz, Dubai, Singapore, Sydney, Christchurch and finally finishing in San Francisco, May 2023.
Racing starts at 2.00pm local time and is live on Sky Sports in the UK. For all the details on how to watch around the globe, visit SailGP.com/watch. For fans in Plymouth, a few final tickets are still available for the weekend but are selling fast, head to SailGP.com for more information.
SAILGP SEASON 3 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS //
1 // Australia // 20 points
2 // Canada // 17 points
3 // Great Britain // 17 points
4 // New Zealand // 12 points
5 // Denmark // 12 points
6 // France // 9 points
7 // United States // 9 points
8 // Spain // 8 points
9 // Switzerland // 4 points
SAILGP SEASON 3 IMPACT LEAGUE STANDINGS //
1 // Denmark // 339 points
2 // New Zealand // 334 points
3 // Canada // 327 points
4 // Great Britain // 323 points
5 // Australia // 321 points
6 // Spain // 307 points
7 // United States // 305 points
8 // France // 302 points
9 // Switzerland // 256 points