Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR team has sealed first place in the America’s Cup World Series after winning the ninth regatta of the competition in Fukuoka. The British team led by 14 points going into the Japanese event and extended their lead over Oracle Team USA on the first day of sailing by winning Race 1.
However, with the Super Sunday races worth double points, it was not all sewn up but Ainslie and his crew held their nerve with some consistent sailing, finishing fourth, second and third in the final three races to win both the Japanese regatta and the overall series.
Speaking afterwards Ainslie said, “This has been a goal for us for the whole season and for this event. The guys have done an incredible job. For us as a new team it sends out a strong message for all our supporters that we can do it."
The World Series win gives Land Rover BAR a two-point head start heading into the America’s Cup Qualifiers, which begin in Bermuda on May 26, 2017. Oracle Team USA, the title defender, will start with one bonus point having finished second in the World Series.
The America’s Cup Fukuoka was also notable for being the first Japanese event in the history of sailing’s ultimate prize, and local favourites SoftBank Team Japan did not disappointing the enthusiastic crowd, winning Race 2 and finishing second in Race 6.
Skipper Dean Barker has been known to push his America's Cup yacht to the limit during testing, as recently shown by a dramatic SoftBank Team Japan accident in Bermuda.
“This weekend has completely exceeded all my expectations," he added. "The number of people that have turned up, both in the Event Village and out on the water, and the genuine support for the team, it’s just really cool, especially when you consider that this team is only just over a year and a half old."