Ainslie, Spithill out to regain sea legs

·3-min read

Two of the world's best skippers are trying to regain their sea legs before falling further behind in SailGP's race for the $1 million Season 3 championship.

Britain's Sir Ben Ainslie will return to the fleet this weekend in St Tropez, France. He missed the previous regatta in Copenhagen after his foiling 50-foot catamaran was severely damaged when it hit a submerged object during practice.

It was the second major accident in two seasons by Ainslie, who is the most-decorated sailor in Olympic history with four gold medals and a silver, as well as a former America's Cup winner.

US skipper Jimmy Spithill, a two-time America's Cup champion, hasn't finished above fifth in four regattas this year.

The Australian and his crew are still working their way back from finishing a disappointing eighth in the nine-boat fleet in home waters off Chicago three regattas ago.

Even two-time defending champion and current points leader Tom Slingsby of Australia has suddenly found himself looking over his shoulder at his rival from across the Tasman Sea, Peter Burling of New Zealand, who has won two straight regattas in tech tycoon Larry Ellison's global league.

Racing is Saturday and Sunday. Before Friday's final practice race, the British team was joined by teams and sailors from other Commonwealth counties for three minutes of silence for Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday.

Ainslie reached the podium race at the season's first two regattas, just missed making it in his home regatta in Plymouth, England, and then missed the Copenhagen regatta after striking either a rock or chunk of concrete when his boat strayed beyond the course boundaries during practice.

The collision caused extensive damage to the starboard foil and rudder as well as the foil box, which controls the rake of the foil, making it impossible to fly the boat.

Wing trimmer Iain Jensen was crossing the boat and took a tumble but was OK. "So, it was just damage to pride and equipment, really," Ainslie said.

Britain had been in second place in the season standings behind Australia but tumbled to fifth, one point behind Canada.

Australia hold a four-point lead over New Zealand, with Denmark another four points back in third.

"Missing the points is a big hit which we've got to recover from. This is life and sport, isn't it?" Ainslie said. "It doesn't always go your way. You're going to get setbacks and it's how you recover from them that counts."

Spithill reached the $1 million, winner-take-all race at the end of Season 2, but hasn't been on form this season after making some crew changes and is seventh overall.

"We're definitely starting to trend the right way," Spithill said. "We're realists. We are disappointed. We want to be at the front, we want to be up in podium races come Sunday."

Earlier in the week, Oracle Red Bull Racing Formula One drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez joined Spithill, who also represents Red Bull, for some friendly races against Slingsby.