BLUNDER SINKS AINSLIE
Error on the third gate causes British legend’s defeat at America’s Cup qualifiers
British yachting legend Sir Ben Ainslie slumped to a fourth straight defeat at the America’s Cup qualifiers on Monday as France’s Groupama Team battled back from a poor start to win.
An error on the third gate from Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR boat allowed Groupama, skippered by Franck Cammas, to steal back into a lead which they never relinquished down the stretch in perfect rac- ing conditions in Bermuda’s Great Sound.
The French crossed a full 53 seconds ahead of Land Rover BAR, who threw away a promising position for the third race in a row.
The defeat leaves Ainslie’s men with a huge task if they are to advance to the final of sailing’s most prestigious competition.
Four-time Olympic champion Ainslie later admitted his team had produced “our best race.”
“Clearly we’re not fast enough upwind in certain conditions and we’ve got to improve that,” Ainslie said. “We’re in a fight with other teams to avoid elimination and we’ve got to work incredibly hard from here.
“When you start racing these boats, you make one mistake and it can cost you everything. And once you do make a mistake, trying to recover from that in terms of the energy usage is incredibly hard.”
After five races, Land Rover BAR are languishing third in the standings behind holders Oracle on five points and Emirates Team New Zealand, who have four. Britain are third with three points.
Groupama’s hopes of building on the win over Ainslie however came unstuck in their second race, when they were thrashed by Japan’s SoftBank Team Japan, skippered by former Team New Zealand ace Dean Barker.
SoftBank came home a full 2min 34sec ahead of the French boat in the most onesided race of the qualifying rounds to date.
Earlier, a thrilling second race of the day saw Emirates Team New Zealand snatch victory over Sweden’s Team Artemis after a late penalty went in favour of the Kiwis.
Artemis, who had battled back to lead after a penalty for an early start, were denied victory after they were ruled not to have allowed the Kiwis enough room for their gybe at the final turn.
The ruling infuriated Artemis’s Australian skipper Nathan Outteridge, who could be heard voicing his disgust over his microphone.
“No way! That’s an absolute joke!” Outteridge was heard to say, later admitting the team had been “shocked” to learn of the penalty.
Kiwi skipper Peter Burling unsurprisingly praised the decision.
“We were turning the boat as hard as we could and we were lucky not to end up on our side,” Burling said. “With these boats travelling at 40 knots you need to allow more room than that.
“It was an incredibly fun race. We kept fighting our way back into it to give us a chance at the bottom mark. Like any sport you’ve got to play to the whistle.”
Three races are scheduled to take place on Tuesday, with Artemis facing Emirates Team New Zealand once more while Groupama face holders Oracle. Artemis will face Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR in the third race scheduled.
Groupama Team France skippered by Franck Gammas win their race in the Americas Cup Qualifiers in Great Sound, Bermuda on Monday.