Cowes SailGP brought racing to a whole other level on the Solent. Despite a shortened racing schedule due to adverse weather which saw no racing on Saturday, Sunday’s showdown brought more than enough action.
High winds and challenging sea state forced the helmsmen and their teams into survival mode; while teams had been challenging for record-breaking speeds earlier in the week, racing called for more consistency and control. The racing wasn’t about pushing the limits of the boat, but about handling the conditions and staying upright around the course.
Within 30 seconds of race one, the team’s received a stark warning for what could happen when the United States SailGP Team capsized in dramatic fashion. All the crew were safe and with a huge effort from their shore team and SailGP’s technical team, they managed to right the boat and get back out for the remaining races.
“Huge shout out to our shore team and tech team, they jumped into action and got us back out there which was awesome,” said helmsman Rome Kirby. “The boat was in pieces, but we got it around the track, and that’s all that matters.”
Others were not as lucky. The home team suffered a spectacular nose-dive which saw wing-trimmer Chris Draper do a full somersault and the team’s F50 suffer damage which saw them out of action for the remaining races. Japan broke their grinding pedestal clean off but still managed to limp around the race course to ensure they got race scores on the board.
However it was Tom Slingsby and the Australia SailGP Team, who notably had the least amount of practice the week before, that remained the most unfettered by conditions. The Australians put in an impressive performance and were able to establish an unbeatable lead during every race in Cowes, winning three of three races to claim their third win of SailGP Season 1.
Their smart tactics, boat set-up and experience was the winning factor. They sailed 396 meters less than the Japan SailGP Team in race one, carried out less maneuvers and foiled more consistently throughout the races, flying on average 100mm higher than any other team on the racecourse. Despite the conditions, Slingsby and the Aussie team kept their foot on the gas, sailing 2.4 knots faster on average than Japan in the first race of the day.
Slingsby said of the racing, “it was hairy; fortunately for us, we stayed on our feet. Without training before the start and with a couple of hours of sailing compared to a lot more sailing from most of the other teams, I was definitely worried about today. Fortunately we’ve got a lot of experience and that paid.”
Scott Babbage, SailGP testing manager, attributes the win to Slingsby’s confidence at the helm and in leading his team.
“Australia handled the conditions better than the rest of the fleet,” said Babbage. “They foiled more consistently in every race and pushed the boat more than the others. Flying high and bow down demonstrates a higher level of confidence in their control than the other boats.”
Slingsby is known for his collected attitude at the wheel, a trait which certainly paid off for the helmsman in Cowes.
Having established his authority over the fleet in Cowes, will he be able to carry his winning attitude and focus into the Grand Final in Marseille? With one million dollars at stake, you can bet he will give it his all.