SYDNEY (AP) — After the first race day of the new SailGP season on Sydney Harbor, it was Britain’s Ben Ainslie 3, everybody else 0.
Ainslie picked up 30 points for wins in all three opening races Friday.
Defending champion Tom Slingsby and Australia finished second to Ainslie in the first race and third in the next race. Slingsby’s crew is the only unchanged one from the first season.
Britain leads the standings after the opening day while Slingsby and Japan, skippered by Nathan Outteridge, were tied for second with 23 points each. Skipper Rome Kirby had the United States in fourth place with 19 points, followed by Spain’s Phil Robertson with 15.
Spain was penalized points for a first-race collision with France, who went off the line the quickest of the seven boats. The French boat was unable to contest the last two races.
Japan, penalized for breaking the start in race one, collided with the United States a little later in the same race, but fought back to cross third behind Britain and Australia.
Racing among the seven-entry competition continues in Sydney on Saturday with two fleet races, followed by a final match race between the top two point leaders.
In winds ranging between 10 and 20 knots, the British boat dominated proceedings for most of the first two races, but came from behind to edge Spain for victory in the third.
”It was an amazing day of racing. You can’t really ask for better conditions than that, 15-20 knots southerly on Sydney Harbour,” Ainslie said, “I think our team did a great job and the guys on the boat were fantastic. Great opening for us but now it’s time to refocus for tomorrow.”
Slingsby said ït was a tough first day.
“We just made too many mistakes. I think we’re as quick as anyone but the Great Britain team isn’t making mistakes like we’re making. It looks more like we’re the rookies,” Slingsby said. “”We just have to come back stronger tomorrow.”
Slingsby is coming off a dominating performance in SailGP’s inaugural season, including taking the $1 million, winner-take-all match-race finale against fellow Aussie Outteridge.
Ainslie joined SailGP while also leading INEOS Team UK in the America’s Cup. His SailGP crew is made up of sailors from his America’s Cup crew, which will be competing in three preliminary regattas leading up to the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland, New Zealand, early next year.
Ainslie has a special affinity for Sydney — he won the first of his four straight Olympic gold medals — and the second of five straight — at Sydney in 2000.
After Sydney, SailGP has stops in San Francisco, New York, Cowes, England and Copenhagen.
The first America’s Cup World Series, which will mark the debut of foiling 75-foot monohulls, will be in late April in Cagliari, Sardinia, followed by Portsmouth in early June and Auckland in December.
The Prada Cup for challengers is in January and February, and the America’s Cup match will be in March.
While much of the attention going into the event was around the brewing rivalry between Ainslie and Slingsby, the most tense moment of the day involved debutant Spain and France.
AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson contributed to this report.
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