BEN AINSLIE: “THIS IS AN EXCEPTIONAL LINE-UP OF TALENT”
Ben Ainslie believes he will be competing as part of the strongest racing fleet ever seen when SailGP Season 2 gets under way in Bermuda this week.
Eight national teams begin the battle to be crowned SailGP champions and win the $1 million prize on the Great Sound on Friday, with Ainslie’s Great Britain SailGP Team one of the early favourites.
Having won its only race in SailGP so far – claiming victory in Sydney in early 2020 – the expectations are high for the British team ahead of the eight-race campaign kicking off.
Reigning champion Australia are also highly-rated after their Season 1 win, but skipper Tom Slingsby knows his team must improve if the Aussies are to retain their crown.
Ainslie was a new arrival in SailGP for Season 2, and he’s been joined by a wealth of other elite athletes ahead of Bermuda, including Peter Burling and Blair Tuke with the New Zealand SailGP Team, and Jimmy Spithill with the United States.
And Ainslie understands he will be racing as part of an incredibly competitive fleet this season.
Speaking at a press conference, Ainslie said: “I think this is an exceptional line-up of talent in this one-design format of racing.
“It’s quite possibly the best we’ve seen in sailing, so whoever comes out on top is going to have to sail really incredibly well in this class of field and in these types of boats we’re racing.”
He continued: “As competitive sailors and competitive sportsmen that is what you want – you want to be racing against the best and really testing yourself.
“And we’ve got that now with SailGP; it’s an incredible opportunity for all the athletes in this league to go up against the best in these iconic venues around the world in these F50 boats – it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Ahead of the campaign opening in Bermuda, Ainslie and his crew got in some practice racing on the Great Sound to warm up for the real thing.
“They went okay,” said Ainslie on the practice sessions. “I wouldn’t say we started that well – we had a few issues getting off the start line – but once we did that the guys were sailing the boat really, really well.
“We also had [triallist] Hannah Mills with us, and she wasn’t supposed to be helping us out that much. But in the practice racing it’s okay and she did a great job too. It was great to have her with us and be back racing with the team.”
Given the incredible strength of SailGP’s fleet for Season 2, who does Ainslie consider Great Britain’s fiercest competitior for silverware?
“Everybody,” he finished. “It’s no exaggeration that this is quite possibly the toughest line-up we’ve ever seen in sailing – there are no weak teams out there.”