Incoming Emirates GBR driver Giles Scott has opened up about preparing for his SailGP racing debut in Abu Dhabi this weekend, revealing the team’s ambition to make the Season 4 Grand Final remains unchanged.

Scott, a double Olympic Champion, was unveiled as Ben Ainslie’s immediate replacement behind the wheel of the British F50 in the run up to the Abu Dhabi event. But Scott has been a familiar face at SailGP events for a while, with his name listed as ‘reserve driver’ on Emirates GBR’s crew lists throughout Season 4.

Season 4 // Giles Scott at the wheel of the Emirates GBR F50 in Abu Dhabi training

Despite this, he says, Ainslie’s decision to hand him the wheel ‘hasn’t been planned months or years out’, and was only confirmed in the run up to Dubai last month. “It’s been bubbling away, but exactly how that plan was going to look and the timing wasn’t ultimately decided until quite recently”. While he says he’s ‘jumping in’ and feeling ‘green’, Scott has already banked crucial training time on board the British F50, first taking the wheel for a training session in L.A. last July. Comparing it to the original AC50 model he sailed in Bermuda in 2017, Scott said the F50 has been ‘seriously turbocharged’.

Season 4 // Giles Scott drives the Emirates GBR F50 in Dubai training

“They’re certainly not what I remember the boats being in Bermuda”. That first experience behind the wheel in L.A. was followed with two days’ solid training in Dubai, where he was able to test the mettle of the F50 in maneuvers and practice starts. That experience, he says, delivered ‘reassurance’ ahead of his racing debut this weekend.

Season 4 // Emirates GBR driver Giles Scott with Manon Audinet in Emirates GBR Abu Dhabi team base

A key challenge, he says, is the lack of F50 training time in between events, which means it’s crucial that he ‘upskills’ as quickly as possible. “Being able to fast-track your learning is really key to being able to hit the ground running,” he explains. “Wherever possible, we’ve tried to do that and that’s ultimately why I’ve been at a number of events.” But this means that at the start of racing in Abu Dhabi, Scott will be drawing on his mere ‘hours of training time, rather than multiple days’.

Season 4 // Emirates GBR F50 craned in Abu Dhabi

Changing drivers mid-way through a season does, he admits, risk disrupting the rhythm and dynamic of the crew. But one advantage Scott has is his familiarity and historic racing experience with the team. The only crew member he hasn’t yet raced with is strategist Hannah Mills, although Scott points to ‘growing up sailing with Hannah and going to two Olympic Games with her’. “I’m well wrapped up with everyone on board, and for a driver jumping in, that’s a good place to be,” he says.

Season 4 // Emirates GBR F50 underway in Abu Dhabi training

Unlike other team changes in the F50 fleet - such as the entire crew overhaul and sale of the U.S. team, Scott is the only new component on board the British F50 - ‘everything else is staying the same’. This means that the team’s playbook will ‘remain almost identical’. But Scott admits replacing Ainslie will lead to at least small changes on board. “Of course, I’m not Ben and we’ll end up racing slightly differently - but there’s no tear-ups here.”

Season 4 // Emirates GBR and USA underway in Dubai day one

With this in mind, the team’s ambition - to make the Season 4 Grand Final and compete for the season title - also remains unchanged. There’s no reason, Scott says, that goal is any less attainable. “With me coming in, I’d like to think that’s still a possibility - it’s what we’re striving for,” he says. However, he admits there’s still ‘a few unknowns’ ahead of his first event. “Even when I think about it quietly on my own, I don’t know ultimately how it’s going to go,” he says. “There will be work to do, we’ll grow at each event and I’m sure we’ll get better and better - we’ll have to see how the path forward looks from the next event.”

Season 4 // Emirates GBR black flag fleet race 5 in Dubai

The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council takes place on January 13-14, with racing from 2pm GST.