Pitchpole in podium final for Great Britain SailGP Team in dramatic Spain Sail Grand Prix

The second and final day of the Spain Sail Grand Prix in Cadiz-Andalusia brought a significant change in conditions, as 30-40KM/H gusts blowing from the city on the east met the Atlantic swell from the west, resulting in a dramatic course for high-octane SailGP racing.

Speaking ahead of racing, Great Britain SailGP Team CEO Ben Ainslie predicted the racing would be an ‘all action war of attrition’ and he was not wrong. The day’s drama started even before racing, as Phil Robertson’s Spain SailGP Team capsized in the pre-race warm-up, resulting in serious damage to the Spanish wingsail which meant they unfortunately had to pull out of their home Grand Prix.

Starting the day in fourth place, the British team knew strong results would be required to qualify for the ‘winners-takes-all’ podium race and Ainslie and his crew delivered. In the very tricky conditions, the Great Britain SailGP Team finished in second place in both opening races, with their F50 being expertly piloted throughout.

The moment of the day, however, came in the first reach of the final podium race between Ainslie’s British team, Tom Slingsby’s Australia SailGP Team and Jimmy Spithill’s USA SailGP Team. After a perfectly timed start, the British team hit a gust on the first reach and stuck the bow in the water, resulting in a significant pitchpole at 70KM/H and the British F50 subsequently capsized.

Fortunately, both the crew and the British F50 were unharmed, as the team were quickly able to right the boat and even sail it back to shore. The Grand Prix was ultimately won by Slingsby’s Australia SailGP Team.

Speaking on the day’s action and the team’s third place finish in the Spain Sail Grand Prix Ben Ainslie said: “That was a full-on day with really breezy conditions. The first two races were good. We had a nice start in the second race especially and two second place finishes which was solid to get us through to the final podium race.

“It was a great line-up with us, USA and Australia in that podium race. We had a great start again and managed to get into the lead and then halfway across the first reach we got hit by a mega gust and between myself steering the boat, Gooby [Iain Jensen] on the wing and Maso [Richard Mason] on the jib we just didn’t get the trim and the balance of the boat right and stuck the bow in and managed to pitchpole it.

“That was massively frustrating as we’d done the hard bit with the start, it would have been a great race. It’s a shame but we have to learn from it. We are improving our performance and we have the package to be competitive across the wind range, but we just have to eliminate some of these mistakes that are costing us.

“Having Hannah on board this weekend was brilliant, she’s such a star. She’s an amazing sailor and a great team player. She fitted in naturally, was helping with the boat handling in the lighter airs and across all the conditions she was playing a big role tactically in helping me make some of the key decisions. It felt like a natural combination.”

Hannah Mills, who raced on board the British F50 for the first time this weekend added: “I had the best weekend. We are obviously disappointed with what happened with the final race, but it was awesome to be on the boat, contributing and learning. It’s great to have this opportunity.

“The first couple of races today went really well, we were fast, making good decisions and had really good boat handling. We were confident going into that last race and executed the start well. We were blasting along that first reach and unfortunately things got a bit out of whack and in those conditions there’s not much room for error. We will be coming back to Sydney looking to win.”

The results of the Spain Sail Grand Prix leave the Great Britain SailGP Team in fourth on the overall Championship leaderboard, four points behind Spithill’s USA team and Nathan Outteridge’s Japan SailGP Team who are level on points in second and third respectively.

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