Whispering Angel

In March 1950, at the tender age of just 15, Brigitte Bardot appeared on the front cover of Elle magazine and the Earth’s axis shifted. Exuding glamour, pictured barefoot in the then unfashionable St Tropez, she defined beauty, challenged accepted wisdom and became not only a French icon but a global one.

By 1970, St Tropez was on the jet-set map and today it’s still an ultimate destination. Pampelonne beach is an epicentre every summer for everyone from rock stars to the glamorous ones of the film industry, titans of industry, Russian oligarchs and estate agents from Surrey with a few quid to blow. Club 55 is where Joan Collins dines with Elton John whilst the youngsters dance on the tables at Tahiti Plage before heading back into town to carry on the party. It’s another world.

©Ian Roman for SailGP

And in more straitened times, with a booming French economy, it would be the perfect venue for the America’s Cup. Sadly it’s not in the running but instead Russell Coutts brought the SailGP to town and what a success it’s been.

The crystal waters of the Med just make the photographers job so much easier to the point where it’s almost impossible to take a poor one and what’s interesting is that the competition is ramping up through the roof. All the pilots and everyone lucky enough to make the teams, knows that this is the shop window for the America’s Cup. It’s getting very tough to win any of these events and what’s so great is that on any given weekend, literally anyone can win.

©Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

This time it was the ‘wind whisperer’ Nathan Outeridge with Checco Bruni onboard racing under a Japanese flag of convenience who aced the weekend just ahead of the luckless Jimmy Spithill. His time will come in this series. And Outeridge is now sitting pretty at the top of the leaderboard having ousted Tom Slingsby on the march to the million dollar finale. Who’s to say that Nathan won’t scoop the lot? He’s performing out of his skin and if these regattas stay light, he’s the best in the business. How much would Nathan be in demand if the venue for the AC is Jeddah? Everyone would want him.

©Bob Martin for SailGP

And interesting to see the fleet dominated by the Moth boys who had all been in Malcesine the week before eating Tom Slingsby’s dust. Unfortunately for Tom it was a weekend beset with boat problems and quite incredibly he ended up last. Bubbly or bust for Tom but he’s just so cool and relaxed…he’ll win the next one. It’s like watching one of those gung-ho football teams of the 1990’s that was set up just to score more goals than the other team. You score five, we’ll score six. Tom is genius incarnate on his day and almost comical on others. I love the roller-coaster ride…

However you look at it, and for goodness sake there are some who just don’t like it or get it, SailGP delivers time and again. It’s an absolutely great series with the top names all there and proper competition at a stratospheric level. This is the premier league of world sailing for now and it really does have it all. There’s not a stone unturned – the coverage is great, the commentators are brilliant and right on the money, the social media is dynamite (I love the Guy Ritchie meme of the Brits), the people behind the scenes literally bend over backwards to accommodate (special mention to Saskia) and they’re just doing everything right. Crowds are being entertained at the venues and us spectators are being treated time and time again to some brilliant racing. The boats are terrific and ultimate speed machines and the word back from the competitors is that they love it.

©Thomas Lovelock for SailGP

The politics behind the scenes is all handled by Russell and we in the media all know just how clever an operator he is and we should be extremely grateful to Larry Ellison for bankrolling it – he really doesn’t have to – and for keeping the impetus going. It’s so easy to sit behind a keyboard and write knocking commentary – I’m quite good at it – but much harder to see something and compliment it. SailGP gets my vote as the stand-out series of 2021. I was un-enthused to begin with but as the season has gone on it has just got better and better to the point where I’m diarising the events and getting excited as they come round. Believe me, that’s quite rare.

The America’s Cup organisers are watching anxiously – I know that for certain – and SailGP has set the bar high. Just as much as it’s a showcase for the pilots and crews trying to get on the next gen boats, it’s also a showcase and pathway for those behind the scenes delivering the comms and the coverage. If the America’s Cup continues with its hackneyed old ways and staid media format of the last edition it will be doing itself a dis-service. The Cup organisers need a fresh start, new blood, real talent and they could do a lot worse than poach those behind the scenes at SailGP. Good people in there who deserve a shot at the big-time. I’m certain Grant Dalton is watching and knows what good looks like…

©Andrew Baker for SailGP

Well done SailGP – another big tick in the box. All eyes now on the Spanish round at the beginning of October at Cadiz as the circuit chases the very last of the northern hemisphere sunshine. I’ve got Slingsby in the sweepstake for that one…and I reckon it’s the winning ticket.

Outeridge was the whispering angel this weekend. Spithill will come again. The Spanish are starting to fly. Ben was playing bumper cars. Burling was…actually where was Pistol Pete this weekend? And Slingsby once again honestly owned a disaster in his inimitable way.

SailGP is great.

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