Emirates Great Britain lead the fleet on opening day of Italy Sail Grand Prix

TARANTO – September 23, 2023 – Following an event win in Saint-Tropez only two weeks ago, the Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team put in three solid races – in challenging conditions – with a 2-3-3 race record for on the opening day of the ROCKWOOL Italy Sail Grand Prix in Taranto. The feat was no easy challenge with the combination of the strongest wind conditions the fleet has sailed in since the start of Season 4 and the Australia SailGP Team having a nearly perfect day of racing.

Both teams finished up on 26 points after an action-packed day of racing, with gusts of 45 km/h, making it a key day for wing trimmers and flight controllers.

Sir Ben Ainslie, CEO and driver of Emirates GBR Team, said: “The hardest part is dealing with all the power. There’s so much power in these boats and when you get a big gust in those bearaways and the foils and rudders are caveating, the whole boat is shaking and you’re wondering how it’s all going to hold together.”

The Aussies came out strong with Tom Slingsby’s timing on the startline spot on, to gain an early jump on the fleet, helping to secure wins in the first two races of the day. The team’s luck ran out in race 3, and a one second error saw them cross the line early and needing to restart behind the whole fleet, resulting in a fifth place finish.  

Slingsby said: “The early start penalty was so painful. It was a frustrating finish but overall it was a really great day for us. I think if we’d had a practice day in those sorts of conditions the fleet would have been a lot cleaner and you’d see a lot better maneuvers and boat handling. It was scarier than I thought it would be and it’s a bit of a shock to our system going out there in that much wind and we’re known to be the heavier sailors and we were very rusty at times.”

The rest of the fleet had similar opinions about the shifty and gusty conditions and how tricky it was to maneuver on the tight racecourse right in front of Taranto’s seafront.

For newcomers Germany, it was a tough day as Erik Heil’s team broke the starboard daggerboard in the final turn into the finish during the opening race. The crew error ended the team’s day early and saw them back on shore before the second race had started.

Heil said: “We had a pretty good race for us, the conditions with the small board was very special, very new. It was during a jibe and after the jibe, someone – probably me – pressed a button to put the daggerboard down again and it couldn’t take the force and broke.”

It was also a dramatic day for the US SailGP Team.  A massive crashdown halfway through the final race of the day resulted in an injury to flight controller Hans Henken. The injury was sustained during a maneuver and a conscious Henken was taken to hospital where a full examination is taking place and he is responding well.

One boat missing from the eventful day was the New Zealand SailGP Team. However, in some comfort for Peter Burling’s team, it was announced overnight that redress would be awarded for their inability to compete in the ROCKWOOL Italy Sail Grand Prix due to the failure of their wing sail in Saint-Tropez. SailGP has granted them a fifth-place finish, earning them six event points. The points were awarded as SailGP could not provide the necessary replacement parts in order for the New Zealand team to compete in Taranto. SailGP has now amended its rules so that up to six points can be awarded by the class authority for each of the events missed if a team sustains an equipment breakdown and it is not able to supply the necessary replacement parts to get the team back on the water.

The final day of the Italy Sail Grand Prix in Taranto commences at 1:30pm local time tomorrow, September 24, and can be seen live on Sky Italia and RaiPlay in Italy all weekend. For details on how to watch around the globe visit SailGP.com/watch. Head to SailGP.com/Italy for more information.

ROCKWOOL ITALY SAIL GRAND PRIX | TARANTO  // 

Day Two Racing: Sunday, September 24, 1:30 p.m – 3:00 p.m. CEST

ROCKWOOL ITALY SAIL GRAND PRIX DAY ONE STANDINGS //

1 // Emirates Great Britain 26 points

2 // Australia 26 points

3 // France 24 points

4 // ROCKWOOL Denmark 23 points

5 // Canada 19 points

6 // United States 15 points 

7 // Switzerland 13 points 

8 // Spain 10 points 

9 // Germany 2 points  

*New Zealand SailGP Team unable to compete in Taranto due to the structural failure of the  team’s wingsail at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez

*Germany SailGP Team docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix

*Canada SailGP Team Docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez

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