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The Russell Report: Kiwis' poor performance 'staggering' and Aussies' secret weapon revealed

14 MAY 2022Feature
by Sir Russell Coutts, SailGP CEO

The Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess kicks off today (May 14) with a nine-strong F50 fleet taking to the water. Ahead of the season opener, SailGP CEO Russell Coutts reveals his behind-the-scenes insight of the fleet in practice racing.

As we start a new season, we have to mention the performance of the Season 2 winners, the Australian team. They had an astounding performance in Season 2 and completely dominated - winning five out of eight events. A lot of the sport’s top sailors were missing in Season 1 but they weren’t missing in Season 2 and Australia still dominated. That came as a shock to the other teams and I think they’ve realised that there’s a significant gap in performance between themselves and the Australian team. The Australians are going to keep getting better - they’re not going to stand still.

One of the main reasons Australia is performing so well is because of their flight controller - Jason Waterhouse. He is a standout talent in the Australian team. It’s clear from the data that the Australian boat is able to fly with the nose of the boat further down. That means that the foils are flying higher. That provides more downforce which means they carry more power in the wing. The other teams know that but can’t seem to match it and that comes back to Jason Waterhouse.

When it comes to standout talents, it’s clear there’s impressive new athletes starting to emerge. Canada’s female sailor Georgia Lewin-LaFrance has definitely impressed and is one of the top female sailors in the league right now. I’ve heard from Chris Draper, who has been training with Canada, and Driver Phil Robertson that she’s going to be a big plus for the Canadian team.

On the flip side, we shouldn’t brush over the underperformance of New Zealand. It is staggering the Kiwis haven’t finished on the podium yet. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have made excuses that they had the Olympics to worry about but that just doesn’t stack up in my view. On paper they’re a very capable team. In Season 2, they were closing in on a few race wins but ended up just giving it away. They’re not the new guys anymore and time is really ticking for them to turn this around.

Moving on to USA's Jimmy Spithill - he hasn’t won an event yet. Rome Kirby - his flight controller - is injured and won’t be racing in Bermuda so Jimmy has made some changes and brought in a new flight controller - Hans Henken. This guy is an aeronautical engineer and I know that Jimmy has been really impressed with him. However, in Season 2, the USA had an inconsistent performance and, some would say, bad luck. It’s clear that Jimmy is feeling frustrated. He tried to play that down in the press conference - but he hasn’t got too many years left to make his mark as one of the best in the sport.

Overall, I’m excited to see how our new teams of Canada and Switzerland, and our new athletes continue to push SailGP to create tighter, more action packed racing. We’re so excited to be back in Bermuda, which is a fantastic setting for our Season 3 opener.

Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess takes place on May 14-15. Click here for full broadcast information.

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