Great Britain head into the ItalySGP leading the Season 2 Championship courtesy of Ben Ainslie's team's victory in Bermuda last time out. Australia and France round out the top three of the leaderboard having secured podium finishes on the Great Sound, and all three teams will be hoping for just as impressive performances in Taranto.
Meanwhile, the United States prop up the rankings under helm Jimmy Spithill, who endured a disappointing SailGP debut, with Japan and Denmark slightly ahead of the US after the opening event of the campaign.
There's sure to be just as much drama in Taranto as there was in Bermuda, and you can check out the top reasons to watch the Italy Sail Grand Prix, below...
Great Britain on form but missing key man
Since Ben Ainslie joined the team, Great Britain has won each of its two events in SailGP, claiming victory in Sydney last year and again in the opening event of Season 2, in Bermuda. Australia was defeated in both Finals by the Brits, who will be looking to claim three wins on the bounce in SailGP ahead of the team’s home event in Plymouth in July.
One key issue for Great Britain in Taranto, however, is the absence of helm Ainslie due to long-standing personal commitments, with Paul Goodison replacing him for the next two events. Australia will sense this as a real opportunity to topple the Brits, and decorated sailor Goodison will have to live up to Ainslie's brilliance in SailGP to fend off Tom Slingsby's team.
Australia out for revenge
Slingsby and the Aussies are gunning for revenge over the Brits following two successive event defeats to Ainslie's team. Australia won four of the five fleet races in Bermuda before losing in the winner-takes-all Final to Great Britain, and Slingsby insists his team remains confident heading into Taranto due to its fine - albeit unlucky - performance on the Great Sound.
The Aussies currently sit second in the Season 2 Championship, and a victory in Italy would put the team in a commanding position after two events of the campaign.
New Zealand's need to improve
It’s not unfair to say the New Zealand SailGP Team was one of the big disappointments of Bermuda, as Peter Burling and Blair Tuke’s outfit struggled on its SailGP debut. Nonetheless, the Kiwis will be pleased to have finished the event in fifth place – thanks in part to the United States and Japan colliding which saw both teams penalized – and the crew will hope increased time on the boat will lead to an improved performance in Italy.
Burling and Tuke will both miss the action in Taranto which is a big blow to New Zealand, but a better showing than Bermuda is required if the team isn’t to fall off the pace in the Championship leaderboard after only two events
Japan bidding to replicate Season 1 performances
Japan, under helm Nathan Outteridge, finished second in Season 1, losing the Grand Final to Slingsby’s Australia. Big things were expected of Outteridge’s team ahead of Bermuda, and while it raced well on day one – recording third, second and fifth place finishes - the collision with the US on day two ended Japan’s event early and saw the team finish second last in the overall rankings.
A higher finish in Italy is a necessity to stay in touching distance of the top of the Championship leaderboard, and Outteridge will have aspirations of at least matching last season’s runner-up placing come the end of the campaign.
Take two for Jimmy Spithill
There were high hopes for the US Team ahead of Season 2 following the signing of new helm Spithill, who replaced Rome Kirby in the role. However, damage to the team’s boat in Bermuda – caused by the Japan collision and resultant capsize – ended the United States’ event early and means Spithill’s team sits last in the leaderboard.
It was an unlucky SailGP debut for the 41-year-old Spithill, and the hope is he and his team come through the second event of the season unscathed so the US can start moving up the rankings.
Another new speed record?
Great Britain, on its way to victory in Bermuda, set the new record racing speed in the F50, hitting a remarkable 94.8 km/h (58.9 mph) rounding the first mark in race four. Fellow finalists France and Australia also recorded incredible speeds on the Great Sound, to now sit second and third respectively behind the Brits in the all-time top speed ranking.
With all the athletes having had more time on the boats to practice their technique and teamwork, if the conditions are right in Taranto we could see another new F50 speed record during the Italy Sail Grand Prix.