“I’ve never sailed in conditions like that in a boat like this”
Tom Slingsby, Helm + CEO
A windy and wild day for the inaugural New York SailGP. Day 1 of this two day event on the lower Hudson River, gave spectators an electrifying show worthy of even the most critical New Yorkers. Gusts anywhere from 5 kn to 25 kn (9-46 kph) pushed teams to their limits. Six supercharged F50 catamarans made it out to the starting line but only five raced in today’s three scheduled races. Great Britain SailGP capsized (a first for SailGP) in pre-racing warm ups, suffering damages to its 15.5 m carbon fiber wing. Thankfully no athletes were injured. Australia SailGP Team’s depth of talent proves that no matter the arena mother nature offers, they are able to finish in top positions coming away with a win and two second place finishes. Japan SailGP Team, helmed by Australian Olympian Nathan Outteridge, also took top marks, pinning once again these two highly skilled teams against each other from the start.
Going into the race day, helmsman Tom Slingsby knew the forecast predicted less than desirable conditions for keeping the 2,400 kg catamaran flying steadily, and with that knowledge he kept his mindset on what matters most: crew and boat safety.
“It’s going to be about staying safe and keeping the boat in one piece, keeping the crew in one piece, and really managing the conditions. Its managing speed vs. safety mostly”
Due to such wide pressure variances across the course, all teams faced challenges keeping maximum fly times (amount of time on their hydro foils), as well as top speeds. Australia SailGP Team were among the few that could manage their boat as efficiently as possible, yet crashes and major pressure gaps were unavoidable.
Wing trimmer, Kyle Langford, notes
“Typically you can anticipate the wind coming into the boat and make changes to the wing to keep the boat sailing fast, with stability. But, in a venue like New York City where the wind is so turbulent, it makes it difficult to anticipate anything so we are basically reacting to everything. It’s just a bit hard to get the boat locked in.”
Grinders Ky Hurst and Sam Newton had an impressively hard day to manage since their efforts directly help Langford trim the wing. Constant attention to the pedestal, means maximum physical outputs at any given moment.
“At times it's frustrating. When we have good pace and are working hard grinding, it feels like positive progression. But, this type of sailing — going from 48 knots to 10 knots within an instant — just plain hurts,”
a battered Hurst explains. Sudden crashes into the water send waves pouring over the bow and ultimately hitting both Newton and Hurst.
Though Australia SailGP Team was able to manage a Race 1 win over Japan, it was Nathan Outteridge and Team Japan that stole the show for remaining Race 2 and 3. Both race starts for Australia SailGP weren’t in their desired mode, meaning their acceleration coming into the start wasn’t superior in comparison to competitors like Japan and China, who notably had two solid third place finishes in Races 1 and 3.
Tricky conditions may have tested all six SailGP teams, leaving some feeling less confident heading into the final race day, but for Australia SailGP Team the safety of everyone on board combined with consistent finishes was exactly what the team strived for.
“A good sailor should be able to sail in all conditions. This is unbelievably tricky, some may say it’s not that fun, but hey look, it’s part of racing. We don’t choose the conditions, we deal with what we’re given and the best sailors usually rise to the top.”
One point separates Japan SailGP Team from the Aussies, and if tomorrow’s racing is anything like today, New York will be seeing a familiar pair in the final match race.