All eyes will be on the performances of Quentin Delapierre’s home French team and Jimmy Spithill’s United States when racing gets underway in Saint-Tropez next month.
Looking ahead to the France Sail Grand Prix on September 9 & 10, SailGP commentators Todd Harris, Stevie Morrison and Emily Nagel said pressure would be mounting on both teams.
Delapierre’s team will be keen to please home fans after a shaky start to the season, they said. The French currently sit in 8th overall, after picking up 6th and 8th place finishes in Chicago and Los Angeles and appear to have lost their momentum after an impressive Season 3.
Looking back on the season so far, Morrison said the two light wind events of Chicago and Los Angeles had been challenging for France, which typically favors heavier wind venues.
“Light winds don’t give a lot of opportunity for the boat handling and team work that the French are known for.”
However, he said there were no guarantees that Saint-Tropez would provide windy conditions. "France like a bit more wind and tricky conditions, which is all credit to them,” he said, "but Saint-Tropez could be two light air days or two breezy days.”
Nagel agreed, “in Saint Tropez, you never know what conditions you’re going to get until you’re there." She added that she had been 'surprised' by France’s Season 4 performance so far.
“It’s been quite surprising given how strong they were last season - they’ve had two events where they just haven’t performed,” she said.
Season 3’s event in Saint-Tropez was a tale of two halves. The winds surpassed 40 km/h on the first day of racing before dying to non-foiling conditions on the second. France had a strong event, finishing in fourth overall and setting a new SailGP speed record of 99.94 km/h.
After Saint-Tropez, France went on to win their first ever event in Cadiz before repeating the triumph in Sydney.
Nagel said the team’s strong Season 3 event paired with their ‘local knowledge’ of Saint-Tropez could set the stage for a ‘comeback’.
Morrison agreed. “The fact that it’s a home event will be huge for them - we’re definitely early on in the season, so for any team there’s a lot of opportunity.”
He added: “The good thing for the French is that they’ve won an event before, so they know it can be done.”
Can the US repeat their Season 3 Saint-Tropez triumph?
All three commentators said they would be watching Jimmy Spithill’s United States carefully when racing gets underway in Saint-Tropez. The team’s triumph in Season 3 marked their one and only event win of the season and was preceded and followed by a spate of lukewarm performances.
Looking ahead to Season 4’s France Sail Grand Prix, Morrison predicted the team to be ‘happy and confident with the venue’ after their Season 3 win, while Harris said ‘it will be interesting to see if the USA can pull off another success in Saint-Tropez’.
But both said time was ripe for ‘a change’ in one of the founding teams of SailGP.
“It’s funny that they were so consistent in the first two seasons and now they’re really struggling to keep their consistency,” Harris said, pointing to the ‘young teams’ of Spain and ROCKWOOL Denmark, which are ‘stepping up’.
“Maybe it’s time for a change,” he added, “to put someone else in the driving seat”.
Morrison agreed. “They’ve got to deliver and they haven’t done that for a long time - so I’m waiting for a change in that team”.
The France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez will take place on September 9 & 10.