Wonderful news filtered over the social media channels this week that Ben & Georgie Ainslie became parents again with the announcement of the birth of Fox Ainslie, understandably explaining his ‘planned absence’ from the global Sail GP circuit. Family comes first and it’s an awesome time for them as a family as they welcome a new ‘fox cub’ (as they say) into the world. Great stuff. Life affirming. Congratulations.
So whilst Ben is up to his guts in nappies and trying to grab a moment’s sleep, the Sail GP extravaganza pit-stops in Plymouth this weekend and sets up its Big Top with the most fantastic weather forecast. It’s always like this in Britain…ahem. They should seriously consider bringing the America’s Cup here (give it a rest Wheatley…). the weather looks a bit light in the main but almost like the Fremantle Doctor, the land will super-heat and the afternoon sea-breeze will be blowing dogs off chains down beneath the Plymouth Hoe on one of the most demanding race-tracks these isles can offer.
And as usual, the Sail GP team are putting on a great show, dominating the social media airwaves with everything from creating a new sustainability league to attracting the best Royal – Zara Tindall, the Queen’s grand-daughter and Musto ambassador sailing with the French Team – to the fabulous Sail GP ‘Inspire’ programme.
I really like this ‘Inspire’ initiative and it’s something that has been sorely missing from the sport for like…forever. Sixteen young people shoreside have been given the chance to develop career ideas with everything from content creation, hydraulics, data analytics, hospitality or race management to boat building and it’s just so important that pathways are made for young people to get into the sport behind the scenes as much as on the water in the yachts themselves. Big tick to Sail GP on this one.
The question as to where the next great yachting journalists and media content creators will come from for the grand prix circuit is one that keeps me up at night. No, really. As does the conundrum of where the technical gurus, the wing-kings, the hydro-dynamicists, the riggers, the composites specialists and those that make events worthwhile shoreside.
How do we get the next generation enthused to choose the grand prix circuit in support roles and away from the clutches of the tech giants, the boring banks or the excruciatingly dull law firms? Sailing’s not an easy place to make a living and too many fall by the wayside when the opportunities aren’t there on a plate. Opening up the sport, as Sail GP is doing so brilliantly, is vital to finding and giving some oomph to that next generation and they should be applauded for this ‘Inspire’ programme shoreside which has largely gone un-noticed in the mainstream yachting press.
On-the-water, ‘Inspire’ is an easier and more visual sell with fabulous shots of another selected bunch of youngsters buzzing the Spanish Sail GP boat in their Waszps. You couldn’t wish for a better PR opportunity. Crystal waters and a monster foiler arcing around the mid-blue flying Waszp hulls. Brilliant – if that’s not inspiration, I don’t know what is. Makes you just want to get out there…another Sail GP masterstroke. Big tick again.
And the crowds will pack the Plymouth Hoe this sunny weekend. The visual spectacle will thrill them and the boats look utterly magnificent out there in one of the most beautiful and rugged parts of the UK. Sail GP will succeed. Don’t believe the forums and the message boards, what Russell Coutts and his team are doing here is remarkable and all amidst the most difficult global circumstances. The template for the future of the America’s Cup is staring at us, hidden in plain sight.
It’s all so very easy to pick holes in the elite end of the game, much harder to praise where praise is due, but as a niche sport we should all be very grateful that this circuit not only exists but is setting the standards across inclusivity, diversity and sustainability alongside putting on Formula 1 level racing for the top ranks of our sport and the delight of spectators.
Sail GP is across everything and there’s a feeling of no-stone- unturned about it. Put it simply, Larry and Russell are putting more back into this sport than they’ve ever taken out and it’s breathtakingly bold in its ambition and its determination to succeed. We applaud it. This is what good looks like and the weekend is set for some memorable racing and some very memorable times for the youngsters that they have encouraged in to the inner circle.
Sail GP – what’s not to love?