Portsmouth-based UK home team Land Rover BAR have taken a joint lead at the America’s Cup World Series Portsmouth after coming first in two out of three races on the first official day of racing.
Crowds of thousands gathered along Southsea seafront to cheer on Olympic sailor Ben and his team as he led the fleet to secure a tied first-place spot with Groupama Team France on the series scoreboard, placing Land Rover BAR second in the overall 35th America’s Cup runnings, behind Emirates Team New Zealand.
The blissfully bright sun and warm weather made the exhilarating sailing spectacle even more enjoyable for the thousands of Portsmouth locals and visitors who turned up to give Land Rover BAR the rapturous applause they fought hard to earn.
Speaking before the three official races began, Sir Ben Ainslie said: “Other than actually winning the America’s Cup, this is by far and away the biggest deal for us. Winning last year in front of [the crowds] was incredible for all of us. That’s why we compete — we want to do it in front of our home crowd. It looks like great racing and we’re going for it!”
The first race proved to be a tough start for Land Rover BAR, and the finish was tense, as they raced neck-and-neck against SoftBank Team Japan towards the finishing line, ultimately falling into fifth place.
Sir Ben said: “It was very tight racing in quite light and difficult winds. We got caught out in the first race. We were in a strong position and then got stuck with Japan and both of us sailed ourselves to the back of the fleet from second and third which was really frustrating.”
The team regrouped and then stormed to victory in races two and three to applause and cheers from the home crowds waving Union Flags.
Land Rover BAR wing trimmer Paul ‘CJ’ Campbell-James said: “It is absolutely amazing looking towards the shore and seeing that many Union Jacks and hearing the cheers! It really pumps us up and we end pulling the ropes a bit harder and turning the drums a bit faster.”
On top of the racing action, visitors enjoyed countless interactive activities in the Race Village, including a 45ft Royal Navy climbing wall, Blokart land yachts, circus skills workshops, and the Tech Zone, featuring an AC45 catamaran used by the sailors and the grinding challenge proving popular with both the sailors and the public.
A selection of Portsmouth and Southsea’s finest independent local traders were represented in the Race Village, too, in the Love Southsea Market marquee, which will be at the ACWS Portsmouth again on Sunday for a diverse and unique shopping opportunity.
The Blades aerobatic team put on a stunning aerial display at 12:00pm noon ahead of the 1:30pm racing kick-off.
The racing action continues today (Sunday 24th July) and points are doubled, making the racing even more tense and competitive.
Campbell-James added: “There is even more at stake [on Sunday] and we just need to build on the momentum that we had today. Morale is really high and hopefully we can pull out all the stops.”