Both Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth and mainsheet trimmer Warwick Fleury said they had been taken by surprise when, seconds before the start, Ainslie hooked under the Swiss boat, pushed them further than they realised, and forced them into the error of crossing the line early.
That was curtains for Baird, world sailor of the year in 2007, who had to turn back across the line and then follow 2008 world sailor of the year Ainslie's stern for the remainder of 6.8-mile course sailed in 18 to 23 knots. "Ben did a fantastic job," said Origin sailing director Mike Sanderson. "We had been pretty keen on being the ones to push in this much breeze and we got the opportunity to make it more uncomfortable for them." "In the end, you could say we blew the start," said four-time America's Cup winner Fleury. "We thought we were in a controlling position but they got an overlap and we were very surprised." "You just can't afford to make those kind of mistakes," added Butterworth. "Ben did a good job and all credit to him."
Having won both their races, first against 2007 America's Cup quarter finalist Luna Rossa and now the holder, Origin faces South Africa's Shosholoza and then the Greek Challenge on the way to what should be a very manageable first target of being in the top six gold fleet for the second round robin to find the semi-finalists from an original fleet of 10.
Ainslie, with three Olympic golds and a silver, could also taken pleasure in the success of the man who challenged him for the Olympic slot in China last year. Ed Wright took gold in the Finn class where Ainslie has two golds, in the big, annual Olympic gathering in Miami.
He was joined by Nick Thompson winning the Laser, where Ainslie took silver and gold while John Pink and Rick Peacock won silver in the 49er and the trio of Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Aly Martin took bronze in the new Olympic discipline of women's match racing. Earlier, John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Alex Wang-Hansen had won gold in the paralympic Sonar.
Stuart Alexander talks to Grant Dalton Online