Next week’s KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney will mark a ‘turning point’ in the Season 3 leaderboard, SailGP’s commentators have said, with home favorites Australia being the team to beat.
SailGP returns to the iconic racing venue of Sydney Harbour for the ninth event of Season 3 on February 18-19, with crews set to be challenged by the traditionally high wind venue, according to commentator Stevie Morrison.
“If you end up with a current or tide going out, you can end up with a big chop and big breeze,” he said, “that’s what I’m crossing my fingers for.”
He added that there is ‘no better venue’ for racing in those conditions, but added ‘it might be a bit of a shock to the crews’.
The Range Rover France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez holds the record as the windiest event of the season so far, with France setting a new speed record of 99.94 km/h in winds exceeding 40 km/h.
Morrison, together with fellow commentators Todd Harris and Emily Nagel, predicted home favorites Australia, together with New Zealand and Great Britain, to ‘excel’ in Sydney’s high winds, while Spain and Switzerland ‘could struggle’. France too, Nagel said, could ‘come out firing’, despite a disappointing eighth place finish in Singapore.
All three agreed that Tom Slingsby’s Australia, which currently has a commanding nine-point lead at the top of the leaderboard, will be difficult to beat on home turf.
“In big winds, these boats are not easy to slow down and if you’re not comfortable throwing the boat around, then you’re going to be hesitant going into the maneuvers and boat-on-boat situations,” Nagel said, adding “Australia always think they’re going to do well, so they do.”
The Aussies previously won their home events in both Season 1 and Season 2, while Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain won its first ever SailGP event in Sydney in 2020.
Nagel described Great Britain’s win as ‘convincing’, adding ‘it’s about time for them to get back on the podium’.
Harris agreed, citing the Brits’ consistency throughout the season so far, which leaves them third overall heading into Sydney.
“You don’t have to win every race, but you do have to be consistent and that is Ben Ainslie,” Harris said, “when was the last time we saw them finish at the bottom of the table?”