Dubai was definitely the closest Final in SailGP yet. For the excitement, the speed at which everything was happening and the changes in the lead - we just haven’t had a Final like that before.
HEADING INTO THE RACE WEEKEND
We came into Dubai feeling like we were getting back on the right track. We had a couple of tough events in Copenhagen and Saint-Tropez, but we made the Final in Cadiz and felt we were heading in the right direction again. It was good to have a break after racing in four events in two months, but it’s hard to get your head back into the sailing when you come back.
There’s no training you can do that’s anything like SailGP, which made for a tricky first day of practice on Thursday. We did as many practice starts as we could, but the day went pretty terribly for us. I remember feeling like I couldn’t get to grips with it, the starting wasn’t going well and we came off the water a bit down. Friday’s practice was more targeted around racing and we sailed unbelievably. We had great starts, we were out in front for most of the races, and headed into the weekend full of confidence.
RACE DAY 1
I wish I knew what happened to us on Saturday - we just weren’t firing. We had two bad starts, got caught up with the Spanish, and then in the third race we were just about to pop up on the foils to lead to mark one when we got a penalty against the Canadian team.
We totally disagreed with that penalty and the umpires have since agreed that they made a mistake, but it meant we had to drop behind Canada, which already had two penalties against Great Britain and New Zealand. That essentially meant we had to clear three penalties. We fought back and got a decent fourth place finish, which turned out to be incredibly important on Sunday.
SUPER SUNDAY OF RACING
I knew it was still mathematically possible for us to get into the Final with three fleet races to go on Sunday, but my main goal was just to get off to a great start and see how the points fell. We had a bad start, but finished in fifth in the fourth fleet race.
In the next race, I just aimed to finish well and pick up a fifth or sixth place overall to salvage the event and not lose too many season points to New Zealand. We went out there, executed a good start and won the race, and I realized that if the points went our way, we’d have a shot. Then the Kiwis got a four-point penalty for contact with Switzerland and the points became very close. In the last fleet race, we got a decent start and finished in third place. I knew we had to keep one boat between us and New Zealand, and we just managed to keep ahead. My maths aren’t the best in the world, so there was no celebration when we crossed the line. We waited for the official confirmation.
We had another bad start in the Final and picked up an OCS penalty for crossing the line early, but Great Britain and France’s starts were so good that the penalty was cleared almost immediately. From then on, it was just a matter of staying close and looking for an opportunity to overtake. We had some great gains on the top right hand side of the course and in the first lap we were able to overtake the British team by getting them on starboard. In the second lap, we were able to do the same to the French and that set up the exciting finish.
For most of the race, I was thinking that France was going to win it, and then with one leg to go, Great Britain took the lead. But then on the final mark, 20 seconds before the finish, we managed to take the lead. When I saw Great Britain heading to the left of the mark, I actually double checked with our team whether there was another leg to go. But then I realized they were trying to get the board down. I was just in disbelief when we took the lead. We’d been scrambling all day to do our best and the resilience of the team really shone through in this moment.
All you need to do is give us a chance and the team will perform under pressure. It was exciting that we showed that on the big stage. That was our first time racing in Dubai as a team and we loved it. It was a racetrack made for F50 racing and we’re looking forward to future events in Dubai.
Looking ahead to Singapore, we’re in a perfect scenario. We’ve gained season points, we might have put a dent into the other teams’ confidence and we’ve got plenty to work on. It’s going to be tricky for us to get together as a team in the break, but we’ll debrief Dubai and have a briefing ahead of Singapore and look at the racetrack, conditions and the opportunities to gain points.