The ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix | Copenhagen is underway with SailGP’s hydro-foiling F50 fleet taking to the waters of Copenhagen Harbour. After SailGP was forced to call off racing on Friday due to lack of wind, SailGP CEO Russell Coutts gives his behind-the-scenes insight before racing gets underway in a concentrated four-race format on Saturday.
Unfortunately we had to call off racing yesterday (Friday) due to lack of wind. This means that there'll be a different race format in place today (Saturday) - with three fleet races and a Final. That will put pressure on us to deliver quick turnarounds between each race so it’s shaping up to be a fast and furious day on the water. It looks like we have more wind today but it will still be relatively light and shifty.
We have gone for all-purpose 24m wings (because gusts of 30km/h are possible) so if it does get light we will reduce the number of crew onboard to four. That will be a factor and might in fact favour Spithill, Outteridge and Burling, who are probably the better drivers at flying the boats.
In fact speaking of Nathan Outteridge, that’s one of the fascinating stories with him coming in to drive for the Swiss team. There’s no doubt he is going to be a positive change for that team. Coupled with that, we have a light offshore breeze with plenty of wind shifts and those conditions are Nathan’s speciality. In practice racing on Friday, despite him not having raced with this team before he still managed to win a race! Yet he’s missed the first three events this season, so he’s not as well practiced as most of the teams.
So imagine if he is able to come out and beat the likes of Jimmy Spithill or even the Kiwis. I don’t expect he will, but imagine if he did! It would completely turn the 'we need more time to get this right' type of comment we’ve been hearing from some of the under performing teams like the Americans. We’ve all seen Nathan do incredible things in these conditions before and I do expect to see an instant uplift in the Swiss team’s performance - it’s like getting Ronaldo onto a football team - it’s going to make a difference.
Elsewhere, I’ve been impressed with the French team - especially when you compare their performance to the Spanish team. France has a new driver too and on paper Spain is packed full of talent, but France has been right in the mix this season, whereas Spain hasn’t really featured. I think wing trimmer Kevin Peponnet and Quentin are beginning to really work well together and if they keep improving at this rate, they’ll be serious contenders for the Season Championship. Copenhagen and St. Tropez are pivotal events for them in my opinion. If they can get onto a podium, their confidence will grow.
When it comes to the Kiwis, they had a standout performance in Plymouth and if you look back at the replay you can really see that Pete Burling is much more focused on driving the boat fast. In previous events he was trying to do a lot more - maybe the steadiness of the boat is a result of better processes on board.
I’ve got to think Ray Davies has played a part in this. The communication was a lot clearer in Plymouth, with a lot more input from Blair, Josh Junior and Jo. Having said that, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Kiwis don’t make the podium in this event. It won’t be easy for them to repeat the win and I’m expecting Canada and Australia to deliver stronger performances in this event.
My predictions for the podium are Australia, Canada and then either France, New Zealand or Switzerland. I’m excited to see what Copenhagen delivers.
One thing is certain. GBR is going to lose some places and may possibly drop as low as 5th or 6th in the Season Championship… it's been a complete disaster for them.