Ben Ainslie: Starts are critical

Ben Ainslie: Starts are critical

Thursday April 18 2013 Author: Ben Ainslie Location: none selected

As if to confirm what I was saying in yesterday’s blog about how critical the start is in these quick fire races, today was a demonstration of just that. We managed to experience both sides of the equation today with two starts that placed us on the back foot and a third that saw the slimmest of advantages convert into a satisfying win. The margins at this level are so slim and so much hangs on your start.

Conditions were really tricky for the first day’s racing here in Naples and while it was great to be out there racing for real, the shifts and gusts off the shore made it really difficult to be in the right place at the right time.

Our match race against Energy Team was the first race of the day and having chosen the end that we wanted to start at, a shift in the breeze meant that this was no longer the favoured end. The result was that we were too early for the start.

Worse was that the French skipper Yann Guichard did a good job of blocking us out which left as struggling for speed as the gun went and our opponents scorched away on the first leg.

But one of the advantages of tricky conditions is that there is usually a way back into the race if you manage to anticipate the shifts and the gusts. If there’s one thing that experience teaches you, it’s to believe that these opportunities exist and to be patient.

Fortunately for us we managed to anticipate better conditions on the right hand side of the upwind leg which allowed us to take the lead by the top mark. A lead which we held onto until the finish.

In the first of the two fleet races our start was OK on timing but we struggled to break free from the pack and had to fight hard throughout the race. Fortunately we managed to haul ourselves back through the fleet to finish third which was a good recovery given how buried we felt in the opening stages.

The final race of the day was also a fleet race and here we managed to sneak our bows out in front of the competition at the start. The margin was tiny initially, around a metre or so, but it was enough to keep clear wind and help us accelerate to the first mark. We managed to pass Luna Rossa Piranha in the process which meant we rounded first.

From there on we were able to extend our lead throughout the race.

But as we’ve seen before, winning races is one thing, carrying this through to the end of the series is quite another. Often the final result comes down to the last day, Sunday. So while I’m happy about today’s result that puts us in the lead of the fleet racing overall, it is only by one point.

Sure, it is a good way to kick off our series, but it’s also further evidence of the small margins involved.

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