San Francisco’s spectators will be treated to fierce rivalries, ‘hair-raising’ conditions and supercharged pressure when the Season 3 Grand Final gets underway next weekend, SailGP’s commentators have said.
Defending champion Australia has a commanding 11-point lead at the top of the leaderboard and is the only team guaranteed a spot in the winner-takes-all, three-team Grand Final.
New Zealand, in second, looks set to join the Aussies, barring a disaster, but just one-point separates Quentin Delapierre’s France in third and Ben Ainslie’s Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team in fourth.
This means that France must beat Emirates Team GBR in fleet racing to secure the third and final spot in the Grand Final - piling pressure on Delapierre’s team and setting the stage for a dramatic showdown between the two teams.
Speaking about the rivalry, broadcast commentator Emily Nagel said San Francisco’s ‘windy and tidal conditions’ paired with a ‘tricky course’ would suit Delapierre’s crew.
“The French tend to perform best when it’s windy and hair-raising and holding onto your seat - that’s when they have excelled every time,” she said.
It comes after the French team recorded a new SailGP speed record of 99.94 km/h in the 40+km/h winds of Saint-Tropez.
However, she highlighted Emirates Team GBR’s proven track record of racing in San Francisco, ‘particularly the back three’ of driver Ben Ainslie, wing trimmer Iain Jensen and flight controller Luke Parkinson.
Fellow commentator Todd Harris agreed - ‘name someone who has more experience racing in San Francisco than Ben Ainslie’, he said. “San Francisco is such a tricky place to sail with the tide and current and winds and while Delapierre is a great sailor, Ainslie is next level.”
Given the Brits’ experience of racing in the region, he added it would be a ‘huge upset’ if they did not make the Grand Final.
Stevie Morrison, agreed that, ‘part of me thinks Emirates Team GBR will scrape into the Final and end up winning’. However, he said that if he had to ‘make a bet’ on the result, he would side with the French.
“The French are very fast and boat speed is key in these types of situations,” he said. “If you’re fast, it makes your life a bit easier, and I haven’t seen that from the British boat.”