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Big umpire call leads to Emirates GBR missing the podium final in Dubai

by Emirates GBR SailGP Team 10 Dec 2023 16:33 UTC 9-10 December 2023
Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team are disqualified after a close encounter with the USA SailGP Team as the fleet cross the start line on Race Day 2 of the Emirates Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas in Dubai, United Arab Emirates © Bob Martin for SailGP

Sir Ben Ainslie said his Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team had a "tough end" to the Emirates Dubai SailGP Presented by P&O Marinas after being disqualified from the last fleet race of the event.

After ending Day 1 and starting Day 2 with race wins, Emirates GBR was looking likely to take a spot in the three-boat Event Final, but a protest from United States at the start of the second race of Day 2 made that impossible. The US Team protested that Emirates GBR had not given them enough room at the line, with Race Management agreeing and disqualifying Ainslie's crew.

Race Day 2 had started so well for Emirates GBR, with the Team getting up on the foils despite the light wind and leading the fleet just after crossing the start line. Due to the light air, all 10 teams had chosen to sail with the 29m wing, which had been out of action since the dramatic collapse of it on New Zealand's F50 foiling racing boat at the Saint-Tropez SailGP in September.

With crew size being reduced to five people on-board from six due to the conditions, Emirates GBR Strategist Hannah Mills OBE was back on the grinding handles. As well as joining Grinder Nick Hutton on the handles, Hannah was also maintaining her Strategist role and feeding vital information to Ainslie. Strategy was crucial when New Zealand overtook Emirates GBR on leg three while all 10 teams were off the foils, as Emirates GBR decided to sail a further distance in order to get back on the foils - and it paid off - with them picking up speed and getting ahead of Peter Burling's crew. Emirates GBR then led the fleet and crossed the finish line in first place.

For the second race of Day 2, Emirates GBR was crossing the start line next to Taylor Canfield's United States Team. As they crossed the line, Emirates GBR foiled past the US Team which led to a protest from Canfield for barging. The umpires agreed and a DSQ quickly followed, this then made it impossible for Emirates GBR to secure enough points to make it into the Final Race, dashing their dreams of victory in Dubai.

Speaking after coming ashore, Ainslie said: "It was a difficult way to end for us. We had a really good first race then at the second start we were in pole position and it was 50/50 with the US Team and they were obviously gunning to try and shut us out, but the umpires decided to disqualify us and that was a really tough call for us as a Team.

"I felt we were sailing really well today with the bigger wing and the Team was coming together, but in sport and in life sometimes things go against you and you just have to take it on the chin.

"If I had my time again I'd do it completely different, but I've been through enough ups and downs in my career to see it with a bit of perspective."

The day ended with Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the Event Final, with it being one of the closest races ever seen in SailGP. It was a tussle at the finish line, with leaders Canada receiving a penalty on the approach which meant they were denied victory despite being first across the line. It was a matter of metres between New Zealand and Australia, with the Kiwis being declared the winners.

Ainslie described the Event Final as "an epic race".

"I wasn't happy about watching it rather than being in it, but it was an epic race, an all-time SailGP classic, which just showcases what a brilliant event it's been here in Dubai. It's been one of the best events we've had in the League and we're very proud to be here flying the Emirates flag as the home team. We are certainly hoping for more events here in Dubai in the future."

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