Astonishing. Cadiz delivered. Slingsby delivered. Very rarely do you see racing like it but when you do, it’s a treat for the senses. Like watching a heavyweight boxing match when you have skin in the game, watching SailGP when the wind’s blowing and the crews are on the ragged edge (sometimes beyond) is something to behold.
As a vision for what spectacle sailing should be, both on and off the water, SailGP has it all and this weekend it put everything, absolutely everything, on display. What a show…
There are stories literally all the way down the fleet – Ben stacked it dramatically when it mattered most, Jimmy’s chipping away to get the golden ticket to San Francisco, Delapierre showed much promise, Outteridge was astonishingly brilliant in glimpses, Pete Burling won his first ever SailGP race and the female athletes were utterly outstanding, advancing sailing stratospherically and thoroughly, wholeheartedly, irreversibly enriching the spectacle. Glass ceilings weren’t just smashed but shattered forevermore – it was a watershed moment. But the day, the week, the year, belongs to Tom Slingsby.
A more brilliant display of talent you won’t see elsewhere. Watch the video below and go directly to Race 5 and the last windward leg layline. Buried in third with literally no passing lanes and the considerable might of Outteridge out in front with Ainslie charging hard for the lead.
Slingsby rolls the dice magnificently and ducks out mid-beat from the battle to hang hard left before calling the sweetest layline of his career whilst the other two shadow boxed out right before coming in on a header and realising the Aussie threat. It was too late to counter, Slingsby had nailed it. A sharp bear away on the inside and with monster acceleration as the foils gripped and ripped, almost a slipstream tailwind in motor-racing parlance, Slingsby was home and hosed. By the finish line it was the crime of the century. Astounding sailing.
And then the three-boat final. If you can’t appreciate what’s on display then try another sport. After a game of hook-the-mug in the pre-start and an early penalty applied to Spithill by the Aussies, it was actually a masterclass in ignoring the fairground by Ben Ainslie that saw him dial away to windward of the other two galacticos on the ‘B’ of the bang at rapier speed whilst Slingsby came up hot and hard from coffin corner.
But a few seconds later, Ben was in full submarine mode, diving down into Davy’s Locker and pitch-poling dramatically whilst the Aussies reacted sharply to avoid a nightmare collision in an amazing display of seamanship. Thankfully no-one was injured on the British boat and the chase boats were in fast but with the Americans facing an issue of their own, it was left to the Aussies to perform out of their skins and deliver as the breeze built.
A cakewalk, a swansong, call it what you like. I saw something today that is rare and mightily beautiful. A sailor at the very peak with a team of outstanding, mesmerising ability putting it all on the line and delivering right at the moment when it mattered. They meted out a thumping that makes the sailing world stop and send shockwaves through the boardrooms of those in the next America’s Cup. This talent is very, very real and it was on full display in a very colourful shop-window. The Australians win in Cadiz and Slingsby lays even more claim to the title of being the best of this generation. By a distance.
Stunning scenery. First class, professional sport at its very finest. I thought I’d seen it all in the early hours of this morning with possibly the greatest heavyweight boxing match of all time in Las Vegas. SailGP matched it.
If you missed it, take a moment, sit back and watch it end to end. This is our sport now and it’s absolutely marvellous.
Thank you SailGP – what a weekend of sport.