VibrantGP

Set the platform. Clear the path. Don’t listen to the idiotic naysayers. Get the backing. And then deliver. The Tao of SailGP thundered to the very top of the sporting world with a thrilling, all-action, tactically tricky, boat-handling rewarding day out on San Francisco Bay where the cream rose to the occasion and put on one of the great spectacles of our time. Three races that had it all kicked off the showpiece final weekend of Season 2 and it was mighty in its execution, bang on cue and with more position changes than a donkey derby that left us all wanting more. There’s not many sports you can say that about.


©Jed Jacobsohn for SailGP

What’s on display are the finest athletes of this sailing generation, making it mostly look easy – but believe me, it’s anything but. The starts were mesmerising, the speeds hit were apocalyptic, and the boat-handling was sharper than a butcher’s knife. Some of the moves pulled bordered on the insane but an ever-present air of preservation ahead of the big bang tomorrow hung in the air. I still can’t call this one but we have a better idea of who’s on and who’s not.


©Jed Jacobsohn for SailGP

In the all-out Aussie battle masked as a three-way between the USA, Japan and Australia, it was Nathan Outteridge who came to every start with Men at Work in his ears. Yes we can hear, we can hear the thunderrrr, and everyone else had better run, they’d better take cover.

Nathan was on rails winning every first leg to the wing mark and starting on the ‘B’ of every bang. Considering the America’s Cup talent around him, it’s a miracle he got away with it but Ben Ainslie and Pete Burling were at sixes and sevens in the start-box all day and Jimmy Spithill had one to forget.

The only real challenge for supremacy came from Tom Slingsby, fresh from a night of boat preparation to get the wing re-built after that capsize in training, and by race three, the GunSlinger was oh so very close to stopping the Outteridge train. It didn’t happen but on today’s form, you’re looking at an almost match-race between these two for the money shot.


©Thomas Lovelock for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

So what did we learn? Well the crucial first gybe after the wing mark on the shore pretty much dictated proceedings thereafter. Splash down off the foils for even a brief moment and you’re very much toast in this fleet. 100% flight time is the golden formula and Ben Ainslie showed everyone the importance of staying airborne and smooth in race one.

Also the crucial decision to go to the left gate at the bottom mark and out into stronger breeze and rougher water or take the right and head back to the safety and calm of the shore, was crucial. It always is in San Francisco. Ainslie hung tough and called on his Flight Controller to perform a miracle as he attempted to bridge what looked like a dead loss first rubber and translated it into a 200 metre lead. It was impressive, it rolled back the years, but he wasn’t going to be the story of the day.


©Felix Diemer for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

That belonged squarely to Outteridge who just kept on coming and never said die. When they crossed the line after winning the final race and taking the gun, the words: “we should have had three of them today,” were audible. And that’s probably true but in this fleet, it’s about consistency and they’re tied at the top with Slingsby, separated by dint of the race win but with their tails up. Momentum will play its part in the outcome for sure and Outteridge has got it. He’s been looking sharp in training. His demeanour has been all business all week and he knows that the eyes of Team New Zealand are on him. They’ll be very pleased with what they’re seeing.


©Bob Martin for SailGP

Not so, for Pete Burling and Blair Tuke, the pin-up boys of the Kiwi syndicate whose star is waning under the pressure. Not even a live link to Ray ‘Razor’ Davies can drag the All Blacks up there. Pete’s been so far off on his starts to be almost something of the amateur dramatic, lured in by a mis-firing Ainslie, they look like two old pantomime Dames having a private dance. The Kiwis are a click slower everywhere and in this fleet, they’re getting punished.


©Simon Bruty for SailGP

Away from the glamour names however, you cannot fail to have been impressed by the flashes of brilliance shown by both the Spanish and Danish teams. Jordi Xammar was putting the hammer down in a nothing-to-lose fashion and was poking the front of the fleet on occasion with great speed and tactical awareness whilst Nicolai Sehested scored Denmark’s first win in race two. Both teams will come off the water invigorated to go again – this is such a steep learning curve but you can see massive potential in both. Great for Season 3 with these teams providing the intrigue as they find that elixir of consistency.


©Felix Diemer for SailGP

But what of Jimmy? I’d like to suggest an almighty sand-bag ahead of the million dollar shoot-out but boat positioning tells me otherwise. They were off like a rotting two week old kipper today after a performance littered with boat-handling errors and an inherent speed issue.

The data almost look like they were carrying the wrong wing and they trailed around the course dicing with those that had had an issue, trying to save face. The bleachers were bemused. I’d like to smell a rat but it was an odour of a different kind emanating from the patriotic blue. Oh how I’ll eat my words when he smokes to a million dollars and gives the old rooster and feather duster analogy.


©Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

Well, the scene is now set for the grandest of grand finals. The San Fran Grand Prix is on the line first and then we have the winner-takes-all showdown with the eyes of the sailing world firmly on who really is the big time sailor of our generation out there. It’s too close to call and with the wind changing direction to a southerly, meaning that the cold air will be bouncing off the skyscrapers and funnelling down the mean streets of this fabulous city, it could well be San Francisco itself that decides the winner. I’ll stick with Team Jimmy to do the impossible, the improbable, the impressive but it’s a gambler’s bet. Outteridge is looking mighty and Slingers is the coming man. Impossible to call.


©Felix Diemer for SailGP

But I tell you one thing, and this is far from the intense glare of the cameras but of huge significance, and that’s the story going on in the Waszp Grand Final. Hattie Rogers has had one of those weeks where when you get home, you wonder if it was all a dream. After two days of F50 master-blasting with the GBR gang whilst she filled in for an under-the-weather Hannah Diamond, Hattie was thrust back into the Waszp and over two days has recorded six bullets from a white hot foiling fleet. Another day to go but this is an outstanding performance from the nailed-on next generation and it gives me so much hope for both SailGP and the AC40 circuit. Remarkable performance by a serious and coming-fast, female talent of our sport.


©Felix Diemer for SailGP

With more back stories than a Kardashian series finale, SailGP is delivering all round. After tomorrow, we’ll know the full story and our appetites will be whetted for a fabulous, truly global series ahead that promises much.

SailGP is where it’s at right now.



13 thoughts on “VibrantGP

  1. Jordi was scared about becoming skipper at the last minute and then on his very first day he beat 3/4s of the helmsmen in the last America’s Cup! As far as debuts go, I think that’s up there with Dean Barker in 2000!

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  2. Since Magnus has already made his Prediction who will win the 1 Million $ Race with Jimmy Spithill I guess it is time to do mine: I am picking Australia defending their Title narrowly over Japan. I’m basing my Prediction on the Weather Condition for today. Strong Winds clear favours Tommy when you look at the Final Days in Cadiz & Sydney.
    Slingsby is probably relieved he doesn’t have to face either Burling & Ainslie in the Grand Final because they are also High/Strong Wind Specialist as we saw in Cadiz Day 2 (where Burling actually won a Race) and in Bermuda Day 2 (where Ainslie won Race 4).

    So Slingsby it is for me for the Overall Season Championship while I also pick Burling & Ainslie to do well in Races 4 & 5 today given the conditions. I think the Brits may actually narrowly win the San Francisco Event provided they can win their Starts which was clearly the Downfall for them on Day 1 meaning they would finish 4th Overall on the Season Championship. I’d like to see Ben bring Hannah Mills back in for today.

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      1. It’s not boring mate! The more challenging the conditions get, the better Slingsby gets. Average Wind is over 30 km/h today. That favours the Australians. Yes, I know Nathan did pretty well in Sydney with stronger winds BUT he was on a different boat then.

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  3. While it’s great to be on the shore watching the boats come at you, after the first turn you are better off watching the live video coverage to better understand the tactics on the water. Watching from up the hill is great too as you get the perspective of the fleet and the race course. SF has to be the best venue in the world for buoy racing. Even non-sailors enjoy the action from infinite spots around the bay. It’s too bad Coutts and Ellison left for Bermuda. The Cup belongs here.

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      1. Overcast with rain coming, but most likely after the last race. The wind is forecasted to be bigger and gustier than yesterday and out of the south. The conditions will test the best.

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  4. What a headline: “Race Delayed Due To Whale On Course”! What other sport can say that?

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