A challenging second day of racing at the Australia Sail Grand Prix put paid to Denmark SailGP Team’s hopes of grabbing a first overall podium spot, as big breeze pushed the fleet to the max on Sydney Harbour.
The ROCKWOOL team lined up for the last two fleet races of the regatta with hopes of making the final three alive – but landed a fifth and a seventh placed finish to end the Sydney event in sixth place overall, as Australia took the win on home waters.
“It’s not the result we wanted, but we knew it was always going to be challenging for us in these conditions as it isn’t something that we’ve practiced enough in,” admitted Nicolai Sehested, driver of the Danish boat.
“We pushed really hard and gave it everything, but we’re still a few percentage points short when it comes to boat handling in this kind of breeze.”
An important balance
Most of the events in SailGP Season 2 have been raced in lighter conditions and as one of the newer teams in the circuit, the Danes know they still have work to do to find their mode when the conditions go up a level.
“When you have big breeze in these boats, your approach to racing has to change. You still push 100 percent, as hard as you can, but there’s an added safety aspect to think about. You can’t take stupid risks, and it’s important to get the boat and the crew back in one piece. That’s an important balance in your mind. Push hard, but stay sensible.”
Fantastic team work
Despite a disappointing final day, Sehested is upbeat about the event as a whole – and his team’s chances going into the SailGP Grand Final in San Francisco in March 2022.
“Sydney has been a good event in many ways – the venue is fantastic, and although the conditions weren’t great for us, they’re fantastic for the spectators. We showed that, in light/medium conditions, we are one of the top teams. As soon as we saw the forecast for today, we knew it was going to be hard, but I think we showed a lot of improvements today compared to in Cádiz.”
“The team did a great job all week. It’s been hard to fly in and push hard from day one. It’s fantastic teamwork and a really good atmosphere, and that’s what carries you when you’re having bad days. We’re in the mix and that’s thanks to the hard work of the team.”
Olympic champion Rindom makes racing debut onboard
The Danish team saw Olympic champion Anne-Marie Rindom step onboard the boat for the first time in racing. Alongside Katja Salskov-Iversen, she joined up with the Danish team in April 2021 as part of SailGP’s Race For The Future initiative.
“It’s been full on, and really fun. Super strong winds, and everyone racing on the edge. I was a bit nervous before the start, but I think we did as well as we could in the conditions. At the first bear away, we were doing 94 kilometres per hour, and that’s the fastest I’ve ever gone on a boat,” she said.
“My role onboard was to be the eyes outside the boat, watching for gusts, and the other boats. That communication is key as it allows the others to keep their focus on our performance and inside the boat, especially in the start.”
She added: “Sailing in Sydney is just beautiful, there are no other words to describe it. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
With an extended break now before the next event in the United States, the Danish team is focused clearly on where it needs to improve – and will be turning to the data to dig into turning those weak spots around as quickly as possible.
Sehested said: “It’s very easy to focus ahead of San Francisco. We know it will be big breeze and that’s something that we need to close the gap on our competition. It’s hard when you don’t get training days – we will arrive in San Francisco with the same amount of hours that we have now – but we showed that you can make progress from analysis and data too, as we have done since Cádiz. If we can close the gap with a few percent every time, it won’t be too long until we can compete with the big boys in these conditions.”