Skipper Tom Slingsby and his defending champion Team Australia had two seconds and a fifth in Friday’s three fleet races to take a one-point lead over Sir Ben Ainslie and his British team at SailGP’s ROCKWOOL Denmark regatta on Aarhus Bay.
The Aussies lead the British 18-17, with Jimmy Spithill’s U.S. crew third with 16. The rest of the leaderboard is Denmark 15, New Zealand 14, Japan 13, France 6 and Spain 0. Spain’s foiling 50-foot catamaran capsized an hour before the start of the first fleet race and was too damaged to compete.
After two more fleet races Saturday, the top three teams advance to the podium race.
”I’d say today was about as tricky as you could get,” Slingsby said, mentioning wind shifts of 30 to 40 degrees. ”It was a game of snakes and ladders. We had some races where we were a long way back and had some awesome comebacks. We are really happy to get out of today with some good results, and were stoked to make it to the top of the leaderboard, despite not winning any of the fleet races.”
The Aussies won the previous regatta, in Plymouth, England, after finishing an uncharacteristic last in a regatta in Italy in June. They won the inaugural title in 2019 and the $1 million winner-take-all prize.
Nicolai Sehested helmed the host Danes to their first-ever SailGP race win in the opener. The United States won the second race and the British won the third race. Ainslie was back at the helm after missing the last two regattas to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. The British also had finishes of fourth and fifth.
The U.S. team also had finishes of seventh and third. Spithill was pleased with the results, particularly after having to sub in Jason Saunders at the key position of wing trimmer after Paul Campbell-James broke his right leg after being thrown out of the cockpit and landing on the wingsail when the boat popped out of the water during a high-speed maneuver in a practice race Thursday.
Saunders ”was impressive,” Spithill said. ”He came in last night, jumped in with no training, no practice and slotted in nicely. Quite a difficult race track, it was a minefield and everyone had an opportunity but it made for exciting racing.
”Each race we’re getting stronger and we’ll see how we stand tomorrow. We’re going to have some fun,” said Spithill, a two-time America’s Cup champion.
The American team was knocked out of the season opener in Bermuda when it was hit by the Japanese boat. It was leading the podium race in the last regatta before rudder damage knocked it into third place.
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson