Job done for Ben and the BAR boys

A champagne-soaked Sir Ben Ainslie, second from right, and his Land Rover BAR team-mates celebrate victory  Picture: Paul Jacobs
A champagne-soaked Sir Ben Ainslie, second from right, and his Land Rover BAR team-mates celebrate victory Picture: Paul Jacobs
HugoBoss IMOCA Open 60 race yacht skippered by Alex Thomson during the start of the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race. Picture: Lloyd Images

Thomson will step up Fastnet pursuit

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Two races, 19 points out of a possible 20 and a victory for the home favourites.

Job done, Ben.

Sir Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR team may have been denied their opportunity to hammer home their advantage of local knowledge and passionate support from the masses.

Then again, they might have been overhauled had Sunday’s racing taken place.

We’ll never know.

But if you were looking for pointers on the prospects of Great Britain going on to make their challenge for the America’s Cup, their efforts in the World Series offered plenty of encouragement.

After the build-up and the practice sessions of Friday, the real stuff finally got going under glorious sunshine.

In race one, BAR appeared to struggle early on and even briefly languished in sixth place.

Emirates Team New Zealand led the way but Ainslie and his crew soon got the bit between their teeth.

The Kiwis enjoyed a 200m lead at one stage approaching the midway point.

But Ainslie has shown from his Olympic heroics that he quite likes a challenge.

Sure enough the lead was trimmed, BAR made their way past their other rivals and by the time the two leading boats made their turn for the fourth leg out of seven, Team New Zealand were within striking distance.

That vital momentum became that extra speed and BAR surged away – accompanied by the huge roars from the shoreline as they hit the front.

From there, the lead stretched out beyond 100m and the rest of the fleet were left battling for the minor placings, despite a late effort from the New Zealand boat to make inroads again.

While Oracle Team USA – the defenders of the America’s Cup – then found a way past the New Zealand boat, Ainslie and his crew were already grinning at each other as the finish line approached before the back-slapping started.

But anyone thinking that the racing would become a procession led by the four-time Olympic gold medallist, saw a different side of the sport in race two.

Perhaps it underlined just how good Ainslie has been in so many of his other sailing victories that he has been able to find such consistency. In a new boat, even with a team that has been well-drilled, the unexpected is a constant factor in sailing AC45s, which are new to the whole fleet.

Ironically, Ainslie’s team made a fine start to reach the first marker in front.

But after opting to take a different line to their rivals, BAR went backwards fast to leave themselves with plenty to do in fifth spot.

Instead, it was the Kiwis who had stolen the march and profited as they went on to dominate the rest of the showdown.

Oracle Team USA, were unable to build on their runners-up spot first time out as they were awarded an early penalty after colliding with Groupama Team France.

Franck Cammas’ men were back-markers in the first race but then hit back to claim third in a much-improved display.

Jimmy Spithill’s USA team made up some distance to take fourth place, while Softbank Team Japan were fifth as Sweden’s Team Artemis struggled in sixth.

Up ahead, however, Ainslie’s men appeared to have cut the gap on the leaders as they attempted to get back on terms.

But hopes of a grandstand finish were dashed as the Kiwis kept the mistakes to a minimum and held off the challenge with something to spare in the end.

It all set things up nicely for day two – especially with double points up for grabs from the two scheduled races.

But those pesky strong winds ensured the cancellation of the programme and the final result was declared with a Great Britain success by one point.

There’s a long way to go, but it was certainly a positive start to the long quest in attempting to bring the cup home.