ROCKWOOL Denmark SailGP Team sit in joint third place in the overall SailGP Season 4 championships after a tough weekend in Abu Dhabi saw them finish ninth in the fleet.
The Danes – driven by SailGP legend Nathan Outteridge as Nicolai Sehested stayed home on paternity leave – went into Race Day 2 still in touch with the podium spots at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, and needing a strong performance to book their place in the final three.
However, in painfully light breeze, the fleet struggled to foil and, with a shortened course, the team failed to find a way through the crowded starts – finishing the day with a pair of eighth places.
Reacting to the action, Outteridge said: “It was definitely a tough day. Everyone who has come off the water has probably said the same thing – it was difficult and challenging.”
He adds: “These boats need breeze to really sail well, and we were trying to sniff out what we could to get going. It was a tricky day, not what we wanted, and not what I wanted to deliver for Nicolai either. I haven’t spoken to Nicolai yet, but I got a message from him saying ‘these things happen, chin up and thanks for trying to help anyway’.”
At the start of Race 4, seven out of the 10 F50 catamarans crossed the line early – receiving penalties from the Race Umpire – meaning they had to drop behind the fleet.
“Everyone was eager on the first start to get going, and when the front keeps pushing, obviously everyone else goes with them,” explains Outteridge.
“I haven’t looked yet to see how close we were, but that start penalty obviously hurt us, and then we were doing our best we could to slow down to let France pass, but trying not to hit the other boats too.”
New Zealand SailGP Team – led by Outteridge’s Emirates Team New Zealand colleague Peter Burling – took the win at the first ever Abu Dhabi event, to move into second spot in the overall standings and increase the gap between themselves and the chasing pack.
And despite garnering a reputation as the ‘Wind Whisperer’ – an expert in light breeze – Outteridge’s skills could not help the ROCKWOOL team as the conditions made life difficult for the fleet.
“Normally when wind strategy comes into it is when it’s a bit gustier, between the three knots we had today, and around eight knots. But today, there weren’t many tactical or strategic decisions to be made,” he says.
“If you had a good start, you’re probably at the front, if you had a bad start you’re probably at the back, and if you’re at the back, it’s so light you can’t do a lot – there was only one tack on the upwind really as the course was so short.”
Danish driver Sehested – who missed his first SailGP event since launching the ROCKWOOL Denmark SailGP Team in 2019 this weekend, will return for the next SailGP action – the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney on 24-25 February.
His mission is to keep the ROCKWOOL team in the fight for the top three positions overall – and qualify Denmark for the Grand Final in San Francisco this summer. “Thanks to Nicolai, the team and ROCKWOOL for giving me this opportunity,” says Outteridge.
“Hopefully I get another chance in the future to come and drive again. It was a challenging weekend, and when you’re out of it for a year and a half it takes a while to get comfortable again racing these boats – but I’m looking forward to being back on an F50 soon.”