The inaugural SailGP event in the Middle East started out exceptionally well for the Canadian team with a win in Race 1.
Hot out of the blocks, Phil Robertson and the Canada SailGP Team had an excellent start, were first at mark one and from there the team just extended their lead to put the first points on the leaderboard in Dubai.
Having had three days to train prior to the event, the team was familiar with the tight race course inside the breakwater of the P&O Marina but with less than 15 km/hr of wind on Day 1, despite using the largest 29m wings, the F50s were struggling to foil by the start of Race 2. The course was then shortened a few times and timed out before the Canadians could cross the finish line, resulting in a 5th place.
Then in Race 3, a penalty in the pre-start for not keeping clear of Great Britain was swiftly followed by a questionable encounter with New Zealand. Several minutes later the umpires made the call to penalize the Canadians, meanwhile the Australians had fouled Canada and were in the process of clearing that penalty! In the heat of the moment, Driver Phil Robertson requested that the umpires review their call regarding the pre-start incident with the Kiwis which was, however, denied. Learnings all round for the umpires and teams here in Dubai.
Summing up Day 1, just one point out of second place (with 20 points, in 5th overall) Phil said: “We were sailing the boat really well today, in tricky conditions. We sailed well in the first race, the second race as well, we just didn’t make it to the bottom gate and got timed out. The last one was tough. We got a tough call that put us at the back of the pack. We’ll see what comes tomorrow.”
Going into Sunday with a bit more breeze, the F50s were assigned the slightly smaller 24m wings. However, things did not go to plan for the Canadians. Disappointing starts meant lacklustre finishes of fourth, ninth and eighth.
“It was a quite a start-dominated race course today. It was a procession. I didn’t start very well and we pride ourselves on our starts, so it was disappointing. It’s hard when you don’t execute your plan. That’s tough to take,” said Phil. “We have a lot of work to do off the water while we have the downtime in the weeks leading up to Singapore.”
Today's results meant that Canada did not progress to the finals of the Dubai Sail Grand Prix, to be contested by the top three in the fleet of nine teams: Australia, France and Great Britain. In one of the most exciting finals to date, it all came down to the final manoeuvre at the last mark where the Australians overtook Great Britain to take the win and France passed Ben Ainslie’s team to place second.
Training in Dubai this week with the team was Madeline Gillis, a Nacra sailor from Halifax (NS) who was identified by Phil and the team at the We CAN Foil training camp last month. As part of the Canada SailGP Team mandate to inspire, over 500 youth had the opportunity to try foiling this past summer across the country, as part of the We CAN Foil programme thanks to volunteers and the programme’s partners WASZP and SUP&foil.com.
Mark your calendars for the Singapore Sail Grand Prix on 14-15 January 2023.