Sir Ben Ainslie and his Land Rover BAR team were triumphant in the America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth in a weather hit weekend that saw the second day of racing cancelled due to winds in excess of 30mph
Despite the impending bad weather the first day of the America’s Cup World Series got off to an historic start on 23 July. It was the first time that the America’s Cup challengers had lined up against each other on the Solent since the very first race for the famous ‘100 Guineas’ trophy back in 1851. On that occasion Queen Victoria watched the race, which was around the Isle of Wight.
Before the AC45s took to the water the famous 164-year-old ‘Auld Mug’ was displayed in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard before being paraded through the crowds along the seafront to the Fanzone Arena.
After the Cup’s parade it was the turn of the AC45s, with the Official Parade of Sail. Escorted by HMS St Albans, a Type 23 frigate and guardship for the AC45 fleet in Portsmouth, the six AC45s sailed along the packed shore allowing spectators to watch the Challengers for the 35th America’s Cup sailing together for the first time.
Each team performed a flyby, demonstrating how the AC45F’s ‘foil’ high above the water, and enjoyed some informal practice racing to give a taste of the weekend’s action to come.
Ahead of the racing Sir Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR team had already been picked out by their fellow competitors as favourites.
“I think Ben is clearly faster than everyone,” ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill said, to the applause of a home crowd eager to support the local team.
However it was not until the first official practice on Friday 24 July that the thousands of fans were able to see for themselves the AC45s in competitive action. Sir Ben and his team did not disappoint the home crowd with a victory in the first race ahead of America’s Cup defender Oracle Team USA.
The second practice race saw a change in fortunes, in lighter winds, with Emirates Team New Zealand winning from Artemis Racing, with Land Rover BAR third.
The weather conditions, which were to plague the entire weekend, led to Friday night’s South Coast Proms Royal Marines Concert being cancelled. Tickets holders were offered a refund and free tickets to attend the Saturday evening Portsmouth Live concert.
With Saturday 25 July marking the start of official racing Sir Ben Ainslie was eager to get started: “It is so exciting to be getting into racing that counts towards the America’s Cup. We have this Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series over the next two years, we’re thrilled to be starting out in Portsmouth and we can not wait to get out of the starting blocks.”
After the heavy rain on Friday, conditions were fantastic for the teams as they began the long road to Bermuda in 2017. Wind conditions of 10 to 14 knots allowed the teams to demonstrate their skills on the new foiling class of catamaran.
With almost 50,000 fans ashore and over 15,000 on boats around the race course the support was incredible.
In race one Emirates Team New Zealand took the early lead, but Land Rover BAR overhauled them on Leg 4 and extended away to take the win to a thunderous reception from the crowds onshore. Oracle Team USA came through to take second, powering away from the penultimate mark at 30 knots, while Emirates Team New Zealand finished third.
In the second race Land Rover BAR were among the early leaders, but after the first mark Emirates Team New Zealand opted to sail along the shore side and picked up better wind to take a big advantage. Groupama Team France hunted them around the course in second, until Land Rover BAR overtook them at the fifth gate mark, to finish in second. The French team held on for third.
After leading his team to a win and a second place finish in the two races Sir Ben Ainslie said: “We were blown away by the level of support. We are very proud to be based here in Portsmouth to bring the America’s Cup World Series here, and are so grateful to so many people for turning out, it means a huge amount to us.
“I have never seen anything like it in all of my sailing career, so I think we are all a little bit emotional, a little bit gob-smacked. It is just fantastic for our team – for all of our guys back at base in Portsmouth, and everyone else that supports the team, we are just delighted that so many people came out to support the event.”
Racing was due to continue on Sunday, with double points on offer for the two races. However the weather had different plans. With winds in excess of 30mph forecast, racing was brought forward to allow at least one of the two scheduled races to be completed.
However by late morning it was announced that the entire event had been cancelled. The Waterfront Festival Arena and Fanzone Arena were also closed and disappointed fans were asked to leave the venue. Refunds are available for those who bought tickets in the Fanzone Arena and Grandstand.
The day’s racing might have been cancelled, but there still needed to be a winner. Saturday’s results stood and the winners of the first event of the 35th America’s Cup were Britain’s Land Rover BAR.
Ainslie and his team, wing trimmer Paul Campbell-James, runner David ‘Freddie’ Carr, trimmer Nick Hutton and bow/tactician Giles Scott, were congratulated on their win at the official prize giving by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The Royal couple were on site throughout the day and met with all of the teams, presenting the awards for the regatta.
“We are absolutely delighted to win the first Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event here in Portsmouth. This is a great start for us in our America’s Cup journey,” said Sir Ben Ainslie.
“It is a real shame we could not race today considering all the effort that has gone into the event and the support we have had from the local fans here in Portsmouth. But that is the weather and we can not control it.
Next up in the World Series is Gothenburg from 28 – 30 August. This is the home event for Artemis Racing and the Swedish challenger will be looking to improve on a last place finish in Portsmouth.
- Land Rover BAR – 19 points
- Emirates Team New Zealand – 18 points
- ORACLE TEAM USA – 16 points
- Groupama Team France – 13 points
- SoftBank Team Japan – 13 points
- Artemis Racing – 11 points