Ben Ainslie’s Emirates GBR has triumphed on the iconic waters of Saint-Tropez, beating Season 3 champions Australia and LA victors Spain in a dramatic sprint to the finish line.
The triumph ends a long-running win drought for the British team, which last won an event at Season 2’s Bermuda Sail Grand Prix in May 2021.
The winner-takes-all Final was packed with racing action, plenty of lead changes and a dramatic last minute penalty as Australia and Emirates GBR put it all on the line to win the France Sail Grand Prix.
The three-boat Final was tense from the gun, with Australia and Emirates GBR going head to head on the start line. It was the Brits who won the best start – crossing the line with just 0.27 seconds to go and traveling faster than both their competitors.
But the Aussies recovered well to secure the all-important inside track to Mark 1, with Emirates GBR losing the lead on the second leg of the race. From there, Ainslie’s crew fought tooth-and-nail to minimize maneuvers and maximize fly time and made massive gains to ultimately overtake Australia on the penultimate leg of the race.
A masterfully executed maneuver by Ainslie landed a penalty on the Aussies at a crucial moment, allowing the Brits to pass the Flying Roos in dramatic style to triumphantly cross the finish line.
Emirates GBR picked up impressive Final stats, with the team sailing the shortest distance and foiling for longer than both Spain and Australia, all while executing an extra maneuver.
Speaking from the water, Ainslie admitted ‘it’s been a while’ between podium topping performances.
“It’s been a frustrating one, because we’ve obviously got a great team and there were times when things weren’t going our way – it’s taken a lot of determination to get us here.”
He attributed the win to ‘a great team effort’. “The team have had to dig deep to get here,” he said.
Regatas de flota
The last two fleet races of the event were packed with drama, with ROCKWOOL Denmark narrowly missing out on a place in the Final after a disastrous error on the finish line of the 5th fleet race.
Nicolai Sehested’s crew, under pressure to beat Emirates GBR, pushed the team out wide at the final mark rounding. But the aggressive move backfired, and left the Danes trailing in the wake of the Brits.
Elsewhere, congested points saw five teams fighting to get into the Final – with furious battles taking place between Spain, ROCKWOOL DEN, Australia, the United States and Emirates GBR.
But it was a disappointing day for home favorites France, which finished the event with an 8-2-4-9-9 fleet race record to finish in 6th overall.
The refreshed season standings see Australia maintain its first place position with 26 points, ahead of Spain in second with 24, and ROCKWOOL DEN in third with 23.
The SailGP fleet will next meet at the ROCKWOOL Italy Sail Grand Prix in Taranto on September 23-24.