NewsAn update from the Great Britain SailGP Team

Great Britain SailGP Team helmsman Dylan Fletcher.
Great Britain SailGP Team helmsman Dylan Fletcher.

An update from the Great Britain SailGP Team

The members of the Great Britain SailGP Team are back home in the UK after their New Zealand training session, and we got an update on their latest planning and activities, as well as their thoughts looking ahead to the inaugural 2019 season.

The time immediately after the SailGP launch in October was spent recruiting and building the team of 17 people, running a number of team planning and bonding sessions, and setting out objectives for the first SailGP season. It will be a baptism of fire for most of the sailors, who have never sailed a boat like the F50. Whilst they have many years of experience racing at the highest level in Olympic classes, only Chris Draper sailed the F50’s predecessor – the AC50. So how will they shortcut that learning curve and get race ready ahead of the first event in Sydney, now less than two months away?

Chris Draper, team CEO and wing trimmer, expanded on the initial simulator training that the team took part in at the Artemis Technologies facility in Slough, UK:

“The F50 simulator training created by the Artemis Technologies team is pretty impressive and amazingly realistic. Like the other teams, we had three days allocated for our training. Dylan Fletcher, Stu Bithell and I had a go for the first couple of days and our coach Joe was there looking at the data and video the simulator was outputting. On the final days, we were then joined by Rich Mason and Matt Gotrel. Essentially, you climb into half of a real F50 hull and assume your normal positions as helmsman, flight controller and wing trimmer, and off you go. All of the electronic interfaces are the same as on the race boats, so all the buttons are exactly the same as the ones we use to sail and fly the boat. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s pretty amazingly realistic. For everyone except myself, this was our first “sail” in an F50 and before we knew it, we were hitting top speeds of 47/48 knots. It was an incredible way to shortcut a lot of the learning and gave the sailors the confidence to pop the real boat up onto the foil with confidence straight off the dock.”

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The team explained that there are a few things that can’t truly be simulated, like the noise of the foils and the wind, but the overall performance was really similar to the real thing.

Next, the team headed to New Zealand’s Northland region to train on the F50 for the first time, alongside the Aussies. Sailing started on the USA race boat and with near perfect conditions and the F50 performed very well.

Dylan Fletcher, helmsman, shared his thoughts after the initial training:

“It was awesome to finally get to sail the F50 and really get a feel for what it’s like flying across the water at over 40 knots. It was much better than I expected and on the first day I was like a kid at Christmas! Quickly I felt like I started to get used to it and a feel for what the boat wanted even if I didn’t have the skills to quite manage it all the time. The location where we trained was stunning – the backdrop and the amount of open space was an ideal location, except maybe for the odd bit of swell that made life a little harder! It’s going to be quite different once we get to the confines of Sydney Harbour, but something we are all looking forward to.”

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The first day of training was focused on getting familiar with flying the boat and keeping it under control to be able to start preparing for maneuvers. The team continued on this theme for the next day but started adding in more entries into tacks and gybes, and began completing maneuvers. On the third day when the wind had built, the crew focused on tacking and gybing, and by the end of the day, they were very close to completing foiling tacks and gybes despite a steep learning curve. To get where the team did in just a few days on the water was quite impressive, but also an indication of how big the challenge is ahead.

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The sailing and shore teams then had the chance to go to Warkworth, New Zealand, and get first sight of the Great Britain boat going through the final stages of set up at Core Builders Composites. The boat was freshly painted blue and ready for electronic and hydraulic fit out, whilst the wing was in the process of having branding and the Union Jack added to give it that truly British feel.

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The team also took advantage of some of New Zealand’s other outdoor activities, including surfing, golfing and mountain biking. And the sailors put in some long hours in the gym, appearing poised to have one of the strongest grinding teams on the circuit.

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So what now for the team? The next months will be spent gathering all of the necessary resources for when the boat is officially handed over in February, as well as more gym training and additional days on the simulator. Fletcher and Bithell will continue with their Olympic programme with two training camps in Vilamoura, Portugal, and then the Miami Olympic classes regatta. The majority of the team will travel to Sydney in mid-January to assemble the boat and sea trial it ahead of pair arriving from Miami. The team then have an all-important 1- day training period ahead of the season one kickoff on Sydney Harbour.

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Attracting the best partners

Discussions have started with a number of brands that are keen to be part of the excitement of SailGP, and specifically support the Great Britain team and the Cowes event. Watch out for the first partner announcement in the coming weeks. There are many varied sponsorship opportunities that offer not only valuable visibility, but the chance to tell a story. For more information, contact Leslie Ryan (lryan@sailgpgbr.com).

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Preparing for SailGP Cowes

Anticipation is building for the first event in February in Sydney, as well as the whole 2019 calendar, highlight by racing in home waters in August. Plans are well underway for Cowes SailGP, which takes place over the first weekend (August 10-11) of the world-famous Lendy Cowes Week, one of the best regattas in the world. Most of the guys on the British team have raced in multiple Cowes Weeks, enjoying both the competition on the water and the amazing atmosphere onshore. Cowes SailGP will have its own race village along the waterfront towards Egypt Point, with fans, friends and sponsors able to get up close and personal to the action, with racing taking place just metres from the shore.

Further updates will come in early 2019 regarding grandstand ticketing, boater registrations and other exclusive viewing opportunities.

Great Britain SailGP Team reports from sea trials in New Zealand.