SailGP CEO Russell Coutts gives his debrief on all the racing action from last month’s Spain Sail Grand Prix presented by NEAR.

Cádiz was a great event for the sport with the French picking up their first win. That means four different winning teams so far this season, which just shows how tight the racing has become.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Russell Coutts at tech base

I was really impressed with the French - it was even more impressive that they won in a four-person crew configuration in difficult sea conditions against the United States and Australia. People on the outside probably don’t realize how much of an achievement that is - to come in and beat these teams that have had so much more time in the boat.

With a four-person crew, the driver really has to fly the boat and Jimmy Spithill and Tom Slingsby have had a lot more hours doing that than Quentin. But it was the Australians and the Americans that made critical errors rather than the French.

That said, they were still looking a little shaky towards the end of that final race - understandable perhaps, given they were poised to win their first event and the American team was chasing them down. Quentin Delapierre and his team are still pretty new to this and to string together performances like they have this season and then win an event is extremely impressive.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // United States with New Zealand

I heard there were some tears in the team base afterwards which just shows how much it meant to them. Breaking into the professional ranks and beating the best is a big deal in any sport and even more so when the commentary on the outside is questioning if they’ve got what it takes. But they’ve now shown they can definitely compete and beat the best. The combination of wing trimmer Kevin Peponnet and Delapierre is working well, they’ve built a strong team culture and they’ve put together a really consistent season so far, so hats off to them.

The Australians meanwhile uncharacteristically made a meal of the Final. They started poorly and then hesitated after rounding Mark 1, when in my opinion they should have led the other boats into that first jibe. They waited too long and got affected by the disturbance off the boats in front, then jibed and fell off the foils and from there it was pretty much game over. That was unusual for Slingsby because he’s normally looking to exit the mess early and sail in clear lanes.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Australia on race day one

When it comes to the U.S, their comeback has been impressive (OK Jimmy, I’m eating my words here….a bit) and it was encouraging to see them in another Final. But I’m not yet convinced they’ve buried all of their issues.

I recently re-watched the broadcast from Saint-Tropez and even though they won, they were still not sailing the boat as consistently fast (VMG) as the Australians or Kiwis….and I might even extend that list to the British and French. They basically got there on day one, not by brilliance but by avoiding any big errors. To win the final in San Francisco they will need to be fast.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Australia, France and U.S. in Final

The next few events will be telling - if they can continue to string together consistent results then their shot at the season championship will become less of a long shot. One could argue they are on the verge of being “in the mix” and, without the four point penalty for a pre-start collision, they would actually already be vying for the top three overall.

Elsewhere in the fleet, I thought the Canadians might do well in Cádiz. They had a disappointing first day but really put it together on the second day. If they’d have finished just one place better on the first day then they would have made the Final.

I’m sure they were disappointed but should be buoyed by how well they sailed on the second day. From what I hear, their flight controller Billy Gooderham is rated by some of the top sailors in the league and if we get light to moderate conditions with smooth water in Dubai, they could be back in contention for sure. New teams in the league get the right to buy extra sailing days so Switzerland and Canada are both taking that option ahead of Dubai which should help.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Denmark on day one

Denmark also had a horrible first day in Cádiz - they were flying the boat way too aggressively and paid the price for it. It was a similar story for New Zealand. The whole game in Cádiz was to fly the boat lower and keep it on the foils, but New Zealand, and in particular Denmark, were flying too high. It was interesting that the boat speeds were considerably slower (50mm or 2 inches more immersion can equate to 5.5 km/h loss in speed).

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // New Zealand close cross with Switzerland

But it only takes one to two crashes to lose out big time. The Kiwis also didn’t have their coach Ray Davies on site for the event and I wonder if he would have picked up on the fact that the team were sailing their boat differently to the others, because it was pretty clear from the data.

Looking at the bottom of the fleet, it looked a little more promising for Spain. They were looking strong and in a great position for most of the first race on the second day but then threw it away by not building enough speed ahead of some poor maneuvers.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Spain on practice day

They’re definitely looking more at the data and have corrected a lot of fundamental differences in the way they’ve been sailing the boat (they were previously sailing a lot more bow up than the top teams), but they’ve still got a long way to go to piece an entire race together, let alone an event. They have a good crew vibe and they’re definitely working hard but judgment day in professional sports can be harsh so they need to put some results on the board.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Spain with the fleet

Switzerland meanwhile are clearly the team at the bottom of the ladder - but they have a way forward. They were missing Nathan Outteridge in Cádiz and he is their ticket to becoming competitive. It’s fortunate they have his expertise and they really need to exploit this opportunity to learn as much as possible over the next few events in order to be contenders in Season 4.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Switzerland close up in racing

We now have a six week break between Cádiz and Dubai, which feels like an eternity. In some ways, a few weeks break is probably a good thing for the teams, but six weeks is a long time - particularly for the teams that are looking to build on their performances. They’ll be itching to get out there.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Canada at the front of the fleet

We have our very first event in the Middle East with the Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas. It’s going to be a really confined racecourse inside the commercial port, meaning the longest leg won’t be more than 1.0 - 1.5 km. It’s likely to be light to moderate winds with smooth water - so completely different to the big chop we saw in Cádiz. But if it does turn out to be windy it will be a handful on such a tight race course. This is going to be the first big foiling event in the Middle East and it’s great to be showcasing our sport to that part of the world.

The Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas will take place on November 12-13. I can’t wait to get it on.