The Mubadala SailGP Season 3 Grand Final | San Francisco kicks off on May 6. Ahead of the championship-deciding event, SailGP CEO Russell Coutts reveals his behind-the-scenes insight of the fleet.
We’re in San Francisco for the championship-deciding Grand Final! The racecourse, which sits between Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, is an amazing venue and it looks like a sell-out crowd this weekend.
Heading into the weekend, Australia and New Zealand should be confident they’ll be in the Grand Final. The only reason they might miss it is if they have a collision and pick up season penalty points, so they’ll want to be careful in the five fleet races before the three-boat, winner-takes-all Grand Final.
That leaves France and Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team to battle it out for the third and final spot. France and Emirates Team GBR are just one point apart on the leaderboard. The French are seen as the new team on the block and the British, led by Ben Ainslie, are far more experienced. But it’s France that’s had recent wins in Australia, Cadiz and were also close in Dubai, while the British haven’t won an event since the first event of Season 2 in Bermuda - although they also come very close to winning in Dubai.
The analytics behind the teams shows they’re very evenly matched. France has taken more time than the British to ramp up and score points, but the team has a polarized performance. Either they get a good result, or they fall behind and aren’t able to catch up. The British are much more consistent and if they fall behind, they’re able to get back into the race. The French also sail with the bow pitched down more, which means the rudders ride higher. The analytics suggest this is faster, but it comes with a high risk of crashing. The battle between the two teams may come down to the start. The French will need to be careful about being attacked by the British in the start.
New Zealand and Australia are also very evenly matched. The data indicates that the Kiwis might be slightly faster upwind while the Aussies look slightly faster downwind (pushing slightly harder with more bow down trim). The Kiwis have performed better in Finals when they get there, but Australia has qualified for more Finals.
The Kiwis have a better record of being first at mark one, and when they are they have a high success rate of winning races. Whereas Australia haven’t been quite as good at holding their advantage. The Kiwis are also setting up the bottom of their wing sail slightly flatter than the other teams. They reduce camber once the boat is up to speed and this seems to be faster. None of the other teams are doing this yet. It should be a tight contest between these two teams but they will have to be careful about the third boat in the group. It’s going to be fascinating racing and if this final race is anything like the final we saw in New Zealand, it will be all on, right to the finish…
Elsewhere, we’ve announced our Season 4 calendar and we have four events in North America next season - Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and back to San Francisco. This market is a big focus for us going forward.
In other news, we will have a new team joining the league in Season 4. They’ve signed their participation agreement and some of their athletes are already training here in San Francisco. After the Grand Final, they will continue to train for eight days on the Spanish F50 and the Spanish team will also be getting some additional training. We can’t yet disclose the nationality of the team, but it’s a strong sailing nation with a good pedigree of top Olympic sailors and an exciting new market for us to expand interest in the league.
The forecast this weekend is very similar to what we had in New Zealand so we have a good read of what we can expect in terms of performance. The nine F50s will hit the water to begin racing on Saturday and the final installment of this season will begin.
Racing takes place on San Francisco Bay between 2.30pm-4pm PDT on Saturday and Sunday. Full broadcast information and How to Watch details are HERE.