Australia claims SailGP Season 3 opener

Tom Slingsby delivered a masterclass against Great Britain driver Ben Ainslie, known as the sailing ‘GOAT’ (greatest of all time) and most successful sailor in Olympic history, and Phil Robertson’s Canada Team, to win the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix.

The Australian’s were able to dominate early in the final race against Ainslie’s British side and Robertson’s Canada side, with the team crossing the start line first and meeting mark one at ripping speeds of over 70kmph.

Aerial shot of three boats sailing upwind. Australia leading, then Canada, then GBR.
Australia is at the top of the Season 3 leader board. Pic – Simon Bruty for SailGP

Tom Slingsby said: “Everyone asks what the secret is. All I can say is that as a team we thrive on confidence and when we are confident, we are very hard to beat.

“Winning that last fleet race before the final race put us in high confidence. We all looked at each other and said we are going to smoke this, and that’s what happened.”

The victory was even sweeter for Slingsby and the team, given how they lost to Ainslie in the final race at the Season 2 SailGP event in Bermuda.

Speaking of how the Australian’s kept the lead on Great Britain, Slingsby said: “We did a suffocation tactic on Ben’s side when they took over Canada, which is where we get in front of them and don’t let them breath, which allowed us to keep our lead.”

Tom Slingsby added: “You know you are competing against the very best when you go against Ben Ainslie, and I still regard him as the greatest sailor of all time.  We have been able to get one up on him here, but we know he is going to come back strong.”

The race also marked Natasha Bryant’s first event win with the Australian team, after joining the crew for Season 3 of SailGP, through the league’s Women’s Pathway Program. The program aims to fast-track the training and development of female athletes with the goal of creating an inclusive sporting championship that has gender equity.

Tom Slingsby said: “Tash’s calls and tactics on board were great. She was telling us which side of the course was favoured and if Canada and Great Britain were gaining on one side or the other. Honestly a flawless performance by Tash this week.”

The win sees the Australians at the top of the Season 3 leader board ahead of the next event in SailGP Season 3, Chicago Sail Grand Prix, taking place on the 18-19 of June.

Australia team on podium.
SailGP Bermuda winners. Pic – Bob Martin for SailGP

A great opening day performance – that included two first places – saw the British team secure its place in the final three-boat podium race. Shortly before the start, a bad tactical error cost Ainslie’s team any chance of victory, arriving at the start line behind Australia and Canada. Despite managing to work up to second place, the Aussies were too far in front to ever look at risk of losing their lead. 

Ainslie said: “We just made an absolute mess of that last start which is so frustrating when you do all the hard work to get into the event final. We had a whole plan, then we messed it all up, we did a great job to fight back and overcome Canada but if you make a mistake like that you make it so hard to win.” 

It was all smiles for the Canada SailGP Team after a spectacular debut, holding pace with Great Britain for much of the final race and delivering the weekend’s most eye-catching performances. 

Australia, Canada and GBR sailing upwind with a helicopter above.
The final. Pic – Bob Martin for SailGP

Driver Phil Robertson said: “I’m really proud of the team, obviously it’s a really cool achievement to come away with a podium finish in the first event, this is what we had dreamed of happening. Pretty pumped for the rest of the season now, it’s going to be a pretty cool year, but we won’t get ahead of ourselves, there’s a long way to go.” 

It was a day to forget for France, who had a strong chance of making the final after a promising day one effort. Those chances immediately evaporated after an excessively aggressive start in the day’s first race from driver Quentin Delapierre. In a dangerous manoeuvre that saw Ainslie’s team have to take drastic action to avoid a serious crash, the umpires penalized the French with only the second black flag in SailGP history. 

Delapierre said: “I fully understand the black flag, I took some risks today and it was just too much from me. I just have to learn from these experiences, but I think as a group we are still on a good learning curve.” 

Elsewhere Nicolai Sehested’s Denmark SailGP Team presented by ROCKWOOL delivered one of the finer day two performances, just missing out on the podium race after finishing third and fourth in the fleet races and leading for much of the day’s opener. 

Points will be collated across each SailGP event, including Bermuda, Chicago (USA), Plymouth (U.K.), Copenhagen (Denmark), St Tropez (France), Cadiz (Spain), Dubai, Singapore, Christchurch (NZL) and San Francisco where the champion will be crowned and win the $1m championship prize. 

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Bermuda SailGP final standings 

1 // Australia //  

2 // Great Britain // 

3 // Canada // 

SailGP Season 3 Championship standings

1 // Australia // 10 points   

2 // Great Britain // 9 points 

3 // Canada // 8 points

4 // Denmark // 7 points 

5 // United States // 6 points 

6 // New Zealand // 5 points

7 // Spain // 4 points 

8 // France // 3 points 

9 // Switzerland // 2 points

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