Ben Ainslie and Britain reign supreme in 1st SailGP race

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Australia SailGP

The British SailGP team spray champagne on their skipper Ben Ainslie as they celebrate winning the first leg of the series in Sydney, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Britain beat Australia in the final match race. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

SYDNEY (AP) — Ben Ainslie's Britain team completed a near-perfect first round of the SailGP series on Sydney Harbour with a convincing win over defending champions Australia in the match-race final on Saturday.

The British boat, skippered by four-time Olympic gold medalist Ainslie, won the first four of the five fleet races, with Tom Slingsby's Australia taking the fifth. That win, which followed a second place in Saturday's opening fleet race, clinched a spot in the final for the Australian boat.

The Australians had a pre-start penalty before the final and Britain charged away to register a convincing win.

Slingsby and his crew started the day level on points with Japan, skippered by Australian Nathan Outteridge, who notched two third-place finishes on Saturday.

"Tommy and the Aussies are the home-town favorites, it was great to be up against them in the match race and to come out on top is a brilliant start for us," Ainslie said. "I've got to give all credit to the team, it's a team sport.

"I don't think I've ever stepped on to a boat like this where I've just been able to put it where I want to put it on the race course and the guys will take care of the rest."

After the first event of the second season, Britain sits atop the leaderboard with 47 points, followed by Australia with 42, Japan 39, Spain 31, the United States also with 31 and Denmark with 22. France rounds out the standings with 14 points.

The next round of the 2020 SailGP will be held in San Francisco on May 2-3, followed by stops in New York, Cowes, England and Copenhagen.

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