In extreme conditions at the European debut of SailGP, Australia’s Tom Slingsby proved once again that he is the one to beat in the league’s first season. The Australia SailGP Team dominated the field with a sweep of the races while becoming the first crew to break the 50-knot speed barrier in competition.
After conditions yesterday were deemed too extreme for racing, today wasn’t much better as teams struggled with control and safety. As a result, the stakes were higher than ever as today offered just one day of racing in Cowes for teams to put points on the leaderboard before the final in Marseille, where the SailGP championship trophy and $1 million awaits the season winner.
Earlier in the week, the Australian team sustained damage to its wing in practice and was unsure whether it would be able to race today, but this morning saw all damage repaired and Slingsby raring to go. The team, which only had a couple hours of practice in its boat this week, made a deal with the French, who loaned the Aussies their boat in exchange for some training with Slingsby onboard.
“We were on the start today with a couple of hours sailing compared to a lot more sailing from a lot of the other teams. I was definitely worried,” said Slingsby. “It was hairy out there. It might have looked easy, but it definitely wasn’t. We just did our best and concentrated on ourselves. We heard other teams were having issues and it could have so easily happened to us.”
The drama began right after the first turning mark in Race One as three boats nosedived, but the United States SailGP Team caught the worst of it as their F50 catamaran slowly tipped over.
However, they were able to compete in the rest of the day’s racing.
“The boat definitely wasn’t going well after the capsize,” said Rome Kirby, U.S. SailGP Team Helmsman. “We didn’t have any wind gear, the hydraulics and the electronics were pretty rough, and our wingsail is literally in tatters so we could barely go upwind. But we got around the track.”
The Great Britain SailGP Team wasn’t as lucky. On the penultimate leg of the first race, the team dug its bow into the water, sending flight controller Chris Draper tumbling over Stuart Bithell in a dramatic crash. No injuries were sustained, however, the boat was too damaged to sail for the remainder of the day.
Teaming up with the Australians paid off for Billy Besson and the French squad, which had its highest score yet, finishing second in the last race of the day, ahead of Japan and the United States.
“It was good for the moral, the work we did the last week here in Cowes was really great and we did a great job,” said Besson. “We will be pushing more for the last event in Marseille.”
Phil Robertson of the China SailGP Team also had his best finish yet on the Cowes racecourse, with a second-place race finish and third overall placing, making serious gains in stability and speed since New York.
“Wild…that was an absolutely crazy day,” said Phil Robertson. “The team is pretty happy with how we finished up, it was a pretty good day all in all. The big thing we learned this week was how to handle the boat a bit better and how to keep the boat safe as well on days like today.”
Nathan Outteridge was at the top of the leaderboard, one point ahead of the Australians going into Cowes, but, by the end of the day, the team was trying to hold its own and keep the boat in one piece. A crash down from the foils in race one caused Japan to break one of its grinding pedestals, drastically decreasing performance. Outteridge will have to close a gap of four points to be on par with Slingsby in Marseille.
“The main thing looking ahead to Marseille is to make the match race, and the goal will be to win that match race,” said Outteridge. “Today was a big step for us in securing that. Yes, we didn’t beat the Australians, we didn’t take a race off them here, but we extended our overall lead on the Americans.”
SailGP’s final stop for Season 1 is in Marseille which will feature three full days of competition planned with an ultimate winner-takes-all match race for the SailGP championship trophy and $1 million purse.
Cowes SailGP Results
1. Australia, 1-1-1, 30pts
2. Japan, 2-3-3, 25pts
3. China, 3-2-4, 24pts
4. France, 4-5-2, 22pts
5. United States, 6-4-5, 18pts
6. Great Britain5-6-6, 14pts
Season 1 Leaderboard (after four events)
1. Australia, 169 pts
2. Japan, 165 pts
3. United States, 123 pts
4. Great Britain, 120 pts
5. China, 117 pts
6. France, 115 pts
Established in 2018 and headquartered in London and San Francisco, SailGP seeks to be an annual, global sports league featuring fan-centric, inshore racing in some of the iconic harbors around the globe and culminates with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race. Rival national teams from Australia, China, France, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States battle it out in identical wing-powered, foiling F50 catamarans, engineered to exceed 50 knots.
Sydney, Australia (February 15-16)
San Francisco, USA (May 4-5)
New York, USA (June 21-22)
Cowes, UK (August 10-11)
Marseille, France (September 20-22)
Published on August 11th, 2019
Source: SailGP, Scuttlebutt