America’s Cup 2017: Ben Ainslie’s GB team joint top despite collision on day one

Sir Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR team won the 2015-16 America’s Cup World Series
35th America’s Cup in Bermuda
Qualifiers: 26 May-3 June Play-offs: 4-8 June & 10-12 June America’s Cup: 17-18 & 24-27 June
Race coverage: Watch highlights on BBC Two, Red Button, Connected TVs, online and BBC Sport app from 11 June.

Sir Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain team won one and lost one of their opening two races as the America’s Cup Qualifiers got under way on Saturday.

After Friday’s opening day in Bermuda was postponed due to strong winds, Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR beat Sweden’s Artemis Racing in their opening race.

But they were then defeated by SoftBank Team Japan after helmsman Ainslie was penalised for a start-line collision.

With damage to one hull, GB finished 48 seconds behind the Japanese.

BAR – whose crew includes tactician Giles Scott, who won Olympic gold in Rio last summer – still finished the day top of the table with defending champions Oracle Team USA, who await the top challenger in the 35th America’s Cup starting on 17 June.

Oracle won both of their races on Saturday, leaving the two teams level on three points.

Standings

America’s Cup standings
Team Wins Losses World Series points Total points
Great Britain 1 1 2* 3
United States 2 0 1* 3
Sweden 1 1 0 1
New Zealand 1 1 0 1
Japan 1 1 0 1
France 0 2 0 0

*Land Rover BAR started the qualifiers with two points and Oracle Team USA with one point after finishing first and second respectively in the 2015-16 America’s Cup World Series.

‘We silenced a lot of doubters’

“We had a bit of an up-and-down day,” said Ainslie. “We had a fantastic first race, we took down Artemis who were the form team coming into this America’s Cup.

“It was fantastic for the team, we silenced a lot of doubters out there.

“We’ve then got to back that up with a win in the second race – unfortunately we had a big collision with Softbank Team Japan. We suffered a big hole in the side of our boat.

“It was all we could do to get round the course and, frankly given the damage to the boat, it was pretty amazing that we did that.

“Now the shore team have got to work their magic to fix the damage and get us out for racing tomorrow.”

The collision with the Japanese team left damage to the hull of Ainslie’s boat

Ainslie was penalised for not taking evasive action when Japan had right of way before the two crossed the starting line.

There were signs of damage to the outer skin of his boat’s high-tech carbon fibre hull, which appeared to narrowly miss several of SoftBank’s six-man crew as it lurched dramatically in the air as the two boats came together.

“There’s a couple of bruises,” SoftBank Team Japan’s tactician Chris Draper said. “It got pretty ugly, pretty quick.”

What about the rest of the field?

Oracle, the defending champions, beat France’s Groupama team before taking on New Zealand in a rematch of the 2013 America’s Cup – when the US outfit won eight straight races to seal one of the biggest comebacks in sport.

Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill caught New Zealand as they rounded the mark into the penultimate leg and went on to win by six seconds.

How it works

Ainslie steered his Portsmouth-based team to victory in the 2015-16 America’s Cup World Series, a result which earned two points for the qualifying series.

Each team will race each other twice in the qualifiers, scoring one point per win, with the top four teams progressing to the challenger round.

Land Rover BAR start the qualifiers with two points and Oracle Team USA with one point after finishing first and second respectively in the 2015-16 America’s Cup World Series.

The top four challengers are split into two best-of-five semi-finals from 4 June, with the winners competing in the final for the right to take on holders Oracle Team USA – who are also taking part in the qualifiers – in the actual America’s Cup matches.

The first to seven points wins the America’s Cup, or the Auld Mug as the trophy is known, with a possible 13 races to be sailed on 17-18 and 24-27 June.

The America’s Cup, the oldest competition in international sport, was first raced in 1851 around the Isle of Wight and has only been won by four nations.

America’s Cup teams
Country Name Helmsman
United States Oracle Team USA Jimmy Spithill
Sweden Artemis Racing Nathan Outteridge
New Zealand Emirates Team New Zealand Peter Burling
France Groupama Team France Franck Cammas
Great Britain Land Rover BAR Ben Ainslie
Japan Softbank Team Japan Dean Barker

Schedule

Six races take place on Sunday, with the British team involved in two – against the US and New Zealand. Racing runs from 18:00-21:00 BST.

Race 7 – Sweden v France, Race 8 – United States v Great Britain, Race 9 – Japan v New Zealand, Race 10 – USA v Sweden, Race 11 – New Zealand v Great Britain, Race 12 – Japan v United States

Link to full schedule