Reindeer Cyclone

Looking fresh and minty, Ben Ainslie not only revealed a new livery but also opened up a whole new chapter in his SailGP franchise. Closing the door on the red devil of old, the new-look Rita was bang on point, inspired by the unique phenomenon of the reindeer cyclone with some impressive additional flying fish accentuated decals, doubling down on the ‘Protect Our Future’ message that is prevalent across this purpose-driven event. And shoreside, the team led by Hannah Mills were busy visiting schools, doing wetland clearances, beach cleans and walking the eco-walk so to speak. Saving the planet, or ‘our pitch’ as they put it quite brilliantly, is officially cool. And mainstream.

©Jed Jacobsohn for SailGP

Ben comes to this event somewhat as a voyeur. It’s a set-up in essence for Season 3 that starts in Bermuda in just a few weeks time and he looks like he’s actually, truly enjoying it without the weight of national expectation that has borne down on his sailing career since his teens. There’s still expectation and everyone will be watching but without the chance to fight for the overall prize, it’s a more simple affair this weekend. It will be interesting to see how he goes.

Ben’s sublime status in the sport and the respect he commands is peerless despite his days at the competition end perhaps drawing in. But he’s the high-water mark, the scalp that everyone wants to beat. Measure yourself against Ainslie and then see what more you’ve got in reserve. He’s still the one that everyone rates against. The comparison though with Lewis Hamilton in F1 should not be lost – they’ve both absolutely still got it to win, but it’s getting harder as the years roll by. However, these two great British sportsmen have just so much to offer in the older statesmen role, respected through the fleet, looked up to by the next generation and they’re acutely aware that the sands are running and the baton needs passing.

©Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

And passing it is. There sat behind Ben onboard the new-look Rita is 21 year old Hattie Rogers, plucked from the Waszp Grand Final and thrust into the limelight as the ultimate example of the Inspire pathway in action. Hattie is the undoubted, unquestionable brightest light in global female foiling, combining the mind of an engineer (she’s set for high honours in her Finals this summer) with an innate sailing brilliance garnered from a lifetime spent in and around the sport in all its forms.

Foiling came just at the right time fusing the technical ability with the sailing talent and this is the athlete to watch if Britain are to have the very best chance of winning the Women’s AC. I’d actually go one step further to the actual Cup itself as female athletes step up into the full AC75s in the cycle after AC37 – this is truly a talent that the British team are super-wise to nurture. Fabulous to see her on the F50. Remember the name. Remember the moment.

©Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

But as the regatta nears, it’s Slingsby, Outteridge, Spithill who are at the pointy end and getting the media coverage although there are a lot of eyes on Pete Burling in Frisco to see just what he and Blair Tuke have got in their locker. The pressure is on and we know just how well the Kiwis perform when the chips are down – especially these two.

They’re certainly looking sharper than they have for a while and you’ve got to think that with their future secure with Team New Zealand and that headache over and done with, the Burling & Tuke roadshow could, just could, rumble again. What’s nice to see is the smiles on their faces – they genuinely look like the world has been lifted off their shoulders. Dangerous when cornered those Kiwis…

©Jed Jacobsohn for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

The training sessions have been pretty epic out on the Bay and if you get the chance to dial into Tom Slingsby’s Instagram account you can see one of the great near-misses that could quite easily have ended up with both the Aussies and the USA team out for the weekend.

Slingers missed Jimmy by a centimetre on a cross with the screaming ab-dabs in full flow as he mis-heard the comms from a team member after flopping over onto port tack with the Americans on starboard and hoving in fast in full foiling flight. Luckily he could bear away under the stern just enough – the closing speeds are terrifying in these things – and disaster was avoided. Phew…close one there Tommy.

©Felix Diemer for SailGP

Jimmy’s been in the drink too owing to a hydraulic failure in the wing whilst entertaining big wave surfer and Red Bull athlete Kai Lenny onboard. What struck me was just how cool everyone was onboard – it was if he’s just capsized a Laser at the gybe mark – but no harm done and the safety boat was in quick, the boat was righted and the day continued. Just another day in the SailGP office. Terrific stuff.

So with the sun shining and the Bay looking like paradise found, who’s looking sharp out there? Well, talking to people in the know, there’s smart money on Nathan Outteridge and he’s sailing mean and clean under the Japanese flag. I hugely admire Nathan’s ultra-competitive approach. He doesn’t smile often. It’s deadly serious. It’s a dead-pan demeanour determined to get the job done. And it’s an interesting psyche.

The mental boost of the Team New Zealand contract clearly had an effect in Sydney and now it’s the business end of the series. Win here and Nathan could establish himself as the number one sailor not just in the world, but most importantly, in the team. He’s massive competition for Pete Burling to get the most prime real estate in world sailing at the helm of the next AC Defender and it’s the sort of gladiatorial competition that Grant Dalton just loves.

©Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

Nathan’s white hot in the light as we all know, but I get a sense that he’s desperate to shake that reputation off and prove it in the higher ranges. We’ve seen glimpses of devastating performance in previous acts on the circuit in heavier breeze but it’s always been eclipsed at the death by the out and out master in Slingsby. Nathan can easily crush that reputation with a million dollar win in San Francisco. I could see it happening.

But the one that everyone’s gunning for is Tom Slingsby. He’s the gold-standard as it stands today so long as he finds the tune. Untouchable on his day. On rails when the breeze is up. A generation ahead when the cards fall his way. Virtually impossible to overtake when ahead. The ‘GunSlinger’ is pure and simple box office in San Francisco. His personality is shining and let’s be honest, his record in sailing just speaks for itself. To win, you’ve got to out-class the classiest guy in the sport who’s surrounded by a real team, a unit, that is as close to perfection from bow to stern as you can muster. Tough ask to take on Team Tom on top form. But there’s always that roller-coaster to ride…

©Jed Jacobsohn for SailGP

However this falls, and I’ve still got Jimmy to win, what’s assured is that SailGP is occupying the rarefied air of the apex of our sport and very much living in the head of the America’s Cup organisers rent-free at the moment.

This is the bar being set impossibly high and whilst the AC40s are being built and promise so much, it’s a huge ask to eclipse what’s on display with this truly global circuit. Any mis-step in timing now, any delay to the venue announcement (as is being strongly rumoured) and the Cup could be in catch-up mode as SailGP sails off into the sunset. It’s absolutely capturing something unique here and the platform for promoting sailing, growing sponsorships, standing alone as the premier circuit, just gets stronger and stronger.

The art of the extraordinary is on display in San Francisco. Everything’s coming together and it’s a fabulous display and showcase of our sport at the elite end whilst truly having a purpose.

The future is now, right before our eyes, and I have to say…I like it. A lot.

9 thoughts on “Reindeer Cyclone

  1. Sky blue? That’s not a color I expected them to use, but it is good-looking, and it might be their best livery since the original Union-Jack-on-gray “Air Mail” Season 1 look that was one of the best in SailGP overall.

    I think Team GBR has gone through the most livery changes? The gray “Air Mail” was super-classy, the INEOS red-and-black in 2020 was dreary for an event that’s otherwise brightly colored, the previous dark red was an improvement but a bit dull, but I like this Reindeer Cyclone design!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We natives say “please don’t call it Frisco”. Please abide. Thanks. Great coverage by you. They should pay you to be out here to promote the event.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Do they talk about Emperor Norton in England or is he more of an American legend? I know Neil Gaiman has used him in his writing.

        San Francisco has been a strange place for a long time— although perhaps the sight of a fleet of F-50s would have given even Norton pause!


  3. Magnus, there is going to be some blockchain nonsense tomorrow that you will hear about, or that you have heard about already, and as difficult as it is going to be, can I please ask you not to report on it? It is inherently unsustainable and it is absolutely the wrong move. It is an idea that needs to be deprived of oxygen and suffocated in its cradle. It deserves to be ignored.


    1. It’s the Near Protocol, a sustainable blockchain that doesn’t require the ridiculous computing power of Bitcoin and is based on the Etherium block, run by two very smart Ukrainians! But sleep easy…i have no plans to splash on that…(maybe I just did!). The big news is that they’re in for a five year working agreement so there’s obviously grand plans to run SailGP well into the future. Great for sailing. This series is really building momentum…


      1. Please don’t fall for the hype. None of this silly digital blah blah is necessary to SailGP and therefore the most sustainable option is for them not do to it at all instead of patting themselves on the back for picking a company that “offsets” its costs.

        The emissions from transporting their crew and equipment around the world may be unavoidable with the only option being offsetting (but how cool would it be to transport the F-50s in a cargo ship with wingsails someday like those mock-ups?), but they can’t claim this blah blah is unavoidable when literally nobody wanted or needed it.

        You know what I *would* buy from SailGP (with normal money)? I’d love some nice enamel pins based on the venue posters, team liveries, etc. like Disney has for fans to collect.


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