Ainslie's GB Upset Aussies
Yacht Style|Issue 59
With F50 foiling catamarans flying across Bermudan waters at speeds approaching 50 knots, the SailGP season-opener had plenty of speed, action and drama to wow the TV crowds, with a late charge from Sir Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain earning them maximum points.
Kevin Green

Australia began the defence of their SailGP season one title in Bermuda, where they met seven other F50 foiling catamarans including season-one returnees Great Britain, Japan, France and United States, plus newcomers New Zealand, Spain and Denmark.

Plenty of crash, bang and wallop ensued, plus a result not to the liking of the dominant Aussies, who won four of the six races and were runners-up in the other two including the three-team final, where Sir Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain were 11th-hour victors over Tom Slingsby’s impressive crew.

Early indicators from Bermuda shows a widening mastery of these powerful foilers, which have an interesting history. The world had watched in awe as they had match-raced in pairs during the 2017 America’s Cup, but former AC combatant and billionaire Larry Ellison had something else in mind, so gathered his old shipmates, including five-time AC winner Russell Coutts, and support from major sponsor Rolex to create the SailGP circuit, which had its first season in 2019.

Announced to be about 15 per cent faster than their original configuration, these 50-footers were renamed from AC50s to F50s in New Zealand, where they were refitted before arriving across the Tasman for their inaugural race in Sydney Harbour in 2019.

Key roles among the five crew are helmsman, flight-controller, wing-trimmer and grinder. Given the fact that these catamarans are airborne most of the time, the flight-controller’s role is self-evident because in displacement mode these boats just don’t perform.

WOMEN JOINING FORCES

Fast forward to season two in 2021 – only one event was held last year – and even more big names have joined the ranks of Olympians, AC sailors and world champions.

Peter Burling heads New Zealand after winning the America’s Cup in March, while Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni, co-helms of runners-up Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, have joined the United States and Japan teams respectively.

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