Taylor Canfield’s new-look United States team entered SailGP with a bang. Presented with the unique challenge of entering the league mid-season, many teams might have chosen to keep their heads down and blend in with the fleet. But not Canfield. Taking over from racing legend Jimmy Spithill, Canfield recognized he had ‘big shoes’ to fill, but was unapologetic about filling them, and took to the water keen to take up space and make some noise.

Season 4 // United States driver Taylor Canfield in Abu Dhabi Mixed Zone

The refreshed American line-up entered Dubai with barely any F50 sailing hours under its belt after a series of technical difficulties robbed them of pre-race practice time. While acknowledging the team’s entrance into the fleet has been ‘overwhelming at times’, Canfield says he stayed calm at the sound of the starting gun. “When it comes down to it, it’s just about going out and racing like we do 200+ days a year,” he says. “It feels quite natural when we’re in the moment and pushing hard for every inch.”

Season 4 // Close up of USA driver Taylor Canfield in Abu Dhabi

The team’s first two events went smoothly. Canfield’s crew beat Germany and Spain to finish 8th in Dubai, before picking up a 3rd place podium position and winning fleet racing in Abu Dhabi. “To come in and sail the most complex boats against the best sailors in the world is never going to be easy, so to find ourselves on the podium in Abu Dhabi was incredible,” Canfield says.

Season 4 // USA driver Taylor Canfield in Dubai Mixed Zone

Since joining the league, Canfield hasn’t been afraid of ruffling the feathers of SailGP’s veterans, answering Australia driver Tom Slingsby’s challenge to younger drivers and entering the league with an unashamed swagger in his step. He admits that ‘the confidence is there’ and even suggests this assured psychology has contributed to the team’s on water performance. “We’re just trying to be ourselves and have some fun and I think the more fun we have, the more we can stay relaxed and the better we’re going to be when we go out and race.” Despite this, he keeps a critical eye on the team’s performance, describing it as a ‘relatively good level for the amount of time we’ve had.’ “Do we want more?” he asks, “always.”

Season 4 // Taylor Canfield celebrates United States win in Cadiz

Luckily, Canfield is about to get it. SailGP is gearing up to return to Australia for two days of fast and furious racing action on Sydney Harbour this weekend. SailGP’s commentators previously suggested the flat water and light air conditions of Dubai and Abu Dhabi offered the ‘perfect’ soft launch conditions for a new team. Canfield himself said the lights airs of Abu Dhabi presented ‘an easier learning curve’ to a new team.

Season 4 // USA foiling on second day of Dubai

But Sydney is different. Canada driver Phil Robertson has warned the venue will be a ‘reality check’ for the fleet, while Slingsby said he was excited to return to the ‘windier conditions’ of the city after Season 4’s so far ‘frustrating’ light airs. Canfield is no stranger to Sydney. He raced there in Seasons 1 & 2 in the role of U.S. flight controller, experiencing ‘a crazy array of conditions and wind directions’. Instead of feeling nervous, he is relishing the chance to race in heavier winds. “It’s a really tricky, challenging venue, which creates a lot of exciting racing, lead changes and opportunity,” he says. Racing in tricky conditions offers, he says, ‘a lot of opportunity’ for the ‘newer teams who aren’t as polished’. “In steady conditions, the more experienced teams, who are better at moding the boat and really crisp, do well,” Canfield says.

Season 4 // Full revamped USA crew line-up revealed in Dubai

Conversely, the American team will be ‘ready to pounce when it gets scrappy out there’. Canfield’s background as a Match Racing champion has already been commented upon - and demonstrated. In Dubai, Canfield’s crew squeezed Ben Ainslie’s Emirates GBR out of the start line and forced a Black Flag upon them. Reflecting on the incident later, Canfield was unapologetic about the move. “The intention was not to take them out, the intention was to start on time,” he said. He acknowledges his match racing background may lend an advantage in certain race situations, but says he’s well and truly focused on beating the entire fleet. “There’s definitely little battles you’re looking to win around the racecourse and it’s about getting your elbows out,” he says, “but I’m probably fleet racing more than I am match racing these days - my focus is to go out and win every race and I’ll do anything to do that.”

The KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney takes place on February 24-25, with racing from 16:00 AEDT.