Season 4 resumes with the Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix | at the Port of Los Angeles this weekend. Ahead of the event, SailGP CEO Russell Coutts reveals his behind-the-scenes insight of the fleet.
It’s the second US event on the Season 4 tour and we’re in Los Angeles for the first time. The first thing to say about LA is that it’s an extremely tight racecourse - probably the tightest on the calendar. The course is surrounded by various shoreline features and is contained by the outer breakwater for the Los Angeles Port. We have winds of around 30-40 km/h forecast - it’s a venue with consistent thermally driven sea breezes. The very tight race course is going to provide some interesting racing!
In my opinion, Germany was the standout team in Chicago. Even though they finished in 10th, they had an incredible first day and I think everyone was very impressed by how well they did. (If you haven’t seen it yet, the latest episode of Racing on the Edge gives a deep dive of the new team and is definitely worth a watch). Their performance on day one impressed everyone and is probably the most impressive showing of a new team.
Despite that, Germany’s wing trimmer Stu Bithell arrived late into LA due to family reasons, so the team has been practicing in a different configuration. That will create even more hurdles for this new team to overcome and I know that on this tight racecourse, they’re nervous about being forced into a lot of maneuvers, which could prove challenging. However, even with all that disruption and lack of time in the boat they finished second in practice racing on Friday, another incredibly impressive achievement. Eric Heil, Kahena Kunze and the rest of the team continue to show their class.
Over to Emirates GBR, Giles Scott and Hannah Mills have been training in the driver position during practice and it seems they are both being developed as options to eventually substitute Ben Ainslie as the next driver. When Ben does eventually step aside, he’ll continue as co-owner and manager of the team. Ben is obviously a class act and yet he hasn’t won an event since the beginning of Season 2.
That just illustrates how difficult it has become to win in this league. Ben won't want to finish his career without winning at least an event or two and maybe even win the season championship. For those who doubt he can still beat the best, I’d say don’t write him off yet. With that much talent on that boat they will eventually win again and it wouldn’t surprise me if that turnaround starts right here in LA.
Having said that, I thought it was ominous for everyone that the Aussies really dominated on the first day of Chicago. On the tight racecourse of LA, boat handling and course positioning will be an absolute priority and I expect the Aussies to do well again. The Aussies almost always seem to tactically position themselves well on the race course.it’s rare to see them not in a clear lane or making significant tactical errors and they seem to have got even better at that over the last four months. While the Kiwis won in Chicago, I personally didn’t think they looked that strong on the first day. Obviously they came out with the win, but I don’t think that’s a true reflection of the event. I think the Australians came out looking like the on-form boat.
I was also super impressed with Canada in Chicago - the team came third despite the fact they’re currently going through an ownership transition. The good news is that documentation is in the process of being completed and it looks like the future of the Canadian team is secure.
Elsewhere, ROCKWOOL Denmark would have been pleased with their result in Chicago (finishing fourth) - I actually think they are really fast, but they haven’t yet shown they have their tactical game at a level to win an event yet. France meanwhile has disappointed over the last two events and they’ve got to get their mojo back to where they were to return to their winning ways.
Looking at the forecast of moderate wind conditions, it looks like the boats are going to be powered up. It’s going to be about recognizing the fleet patterns and applying good tactical positioning, with no boat handling errors and consistently good starting - that will be key.
The Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix will take place on July 22 & 23, with racing scheduled between 4pm-5.30pm PDT. Full broadcast information and How To Watch details are HERE.