Following the disastrous collapse of New Zealand’s wing after the first day of racing in Saint-Tropez, SailGP CEO Russell Coutts gives his up-to-date insight on the situation.

The collapse of New Zealand’s 29m wing was a dramatic way to end racing and unfortunately the extent of the damage means that New Zealand won’t be able to race on the second day of Saint-Tropez. We only have one spare wing, which is currently located in New Zealand. The lack of spares is due to a backlog of damage - first we had the lightning strike in Singapore and then the weather event in Sydney destroyed another wing.

We had a wing under construction for the 11th in-build F50 and that immediately went to use on the Canadian and New Zealand F50s. We started building a new wing but that’s only recently been completed. We’re looking at ways to get that new wing to Taranto in time for the ROCKWOOL Italy Sail Grand Prix, and provided we can do that then New Zealand will be racing at the next event.

Season 4 // SailGP CEO Russell Coutts on New Zealand F50 wing damage

At the moment, we haven’t got complete answers on what caused the wing to collapse. We know that the mast went drastically out of alignment. If you look at the last images of the mast before it broke, you can see that it had a big sideways bend in it (approximately 500mm) and that shouldn’t have happened. The good news is that we have all the data from the boat, so we can see all the loadings in the rigging. The team will be going through that, analyzing it and coming up with answers. Meanwhile, we won’t be using the 29m wing until we establish exactly what went wrong and how to avoid that occurring again in the future. We’ll be using the 24m wing for racing today and will be running a light configuration on board to compensate for the light winds forecast.

Credit: Olivier Daems

When it comes to New Zealand’s scoring, we don’t give any redress or average points in our racing. Our approach is that where possible, the results should be decided on the water during the race similar to how most other professional sports are organized.

The only time our rules offer redress is if a boat loses its data. When this happens, that boat is required by the rules to immediately leave the course because they can’t see the boundaries, boundary zones or the other boats electronically and neither can our umpires. The collision warning systems would therefore not operate which could cause a potentially dangerous situation. In this case, the umpires would award the affected team a 5th place finish.

Season 4 // New Zealand F50 craned out in Saint Tropez

We also won’t be taking a wing from another boat and giving it to New Zealand. The only time this would happen is if a team gave up their equipment or boat voluntarily or if a team had already qualified for a final and we were able to allocate a non-competing boat to the affected team.

Unfortunately this means there’s just no way New Zealand can race today. It’s incredibly bad luck for them and very unfortunate, but we’re doing everything we can to get them back on the racecourse in Taranto.

Racing resumes in Saint-Tropez at 13:30 CEST.