The unstable sea state of Cádiz proved ‘a great leveller’ for the nine-strong F50 fleet, showing the teams most capable of ‘learning on the job’, SailGP’s commentary team has said.
France beat Jimmy Spithill’s United States and Tom Slingsby’s Australia in the Final, with neck-and-neck racing with the U.S. culminating in a sprint to the finish line.
The choppy ocean swell, which rebounded off the sea wall and came back onto the racecourse, challenged crews across the weekend, with many teams falling off the foils and nosediving into the water.
It was the second event in a row with challenging conditions after the high winds of Saint-Tropez saw France set a new speed racing record of 99.94 km/h.
SailGP commentator Todd Harris described the swell as a ‘real learning curve’, with ‘some teams learning quicker than others.’
Fellow commentator Stevie Morrison agreed, pointing to event winner France and runner-up the U.S. as two of the teams most capable of ‘learning on the job’.
“The sea state really levelled the playing field and everyone looked like they were on a steep learning curve,” he said, adding ‘you could tell that France and the U.S. are two teams that have had to work the hardest recently.”
Guest commentator and strategist on the Great Britain SailGP Team, Hannah Mills, agreed that the ‘sea state was impacting everybody’s ability to sail the boat’, which meant just ‘one bad manoeuvre’ proved ‘costly’.
“Everyone was really struggling - it was an event where whoever got to grips with it the fastest would come away with a win," she said.
Harris complimented the ‘consistent’ performance of event winner France and driver Quentin Delapierre, who marked his first anniversary as driver in Cádiz. Despite winning the event, France did not win a single fleet race and finished with a 2-4-3-5-3 racing record.
While the team did ‘nothing flashy’ across the weekend, they secured ‘top finishes and consistency’, Harris said.
Mills agreed the team ‘was super consistent across the whole weekend’, whereas many of the other teams were ‘quite up and down’.
She specifically complimented Delapierre’s ability to both drive and fly the boat in the Final after the three final teams were instructed to drop down to a four-person crew.
“That team hasn’t done that much four-person crew racing compared to Australia and the U.S., so it was even more impressive that the team was able to perform in those conditions.”
Despite finishing third, Australia extended its overall Championship dominance, from a one-point lead to a four-point lead.
The racing has become much closer, Harris said, making the overall leaderboard more relevant and turning the Championship into ‘a points game’.
While some teams are taking the season one event at a time, Australia driver Tom Slingsby is ‘looking at the big picture,’ he added. Morrison agreed, “I’m sure Tom Slingsby would like to win every event, but he also knows that he just needs to get into the Grand Final.”
Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain had a turbulent event, finishing with an 8-2-1-3-9 fleet racing record and missing out on a place in the Final by one point.
Harris branded the team ‘the Jekylll and Hyde of SailGP’, and questioned how the team can go from a race win to a 9th place finish.
“I don’t know how you sway that far, especially on the same day in the same conditions,” he said.
The team reported problems with a rudder ahead of the fifth Fleet race and a diver was deployed to inspect the issue but reported only ‘cosmetic damage’. It comes after the British F50 ran aground in training ahead of the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix in Copenhagen, sustaining serious damage that meant the team was unable to compete.
Mills disagreed that the incidenct has knocked the team’s confidence, suggesting instead that ‘it’s more about confidence in the boat’.
“They seemed to have had a series of unfortunate events but they’re a really impressive group of sailors, so it won’t take much for them to turn it around.”
The nine-strong fleet will meet again for the Dubai Sail Grand Prix on November 12-13.