Mike O'Donovan beats SailGP’s Joan Cardona to take championship title and win a ride on an F50
NEW YORK – August 14, 2020 – Seven months of hard fought virtual battles came down to just five minutes to decide the first ever eSailGP Champion. In one of the closest match races of the season, British eSailor O'Donovan caused upset when he beat one of the pre-race favorites, Spain SailGP Team member Cardona, to not only win the inaugural championship title but also a ride on an F50 in real-life, plus automatic qualification to the eSailing World Championship Final.
After winning qualifying events earlier in the season, eight of arguably the best eSailors – representing five nations – came together in the nail-biting eSailGP Grand Final. Showing the caliber of the players involved, the first three races saw three different race winners. Deciding the top two players who would go head-to-head in the Championship Final Race came down to the finishing positions in the last fleet race.
Winning the final fleet race by a considerable margin and never off the podium in the previous two races, Cardona was the first player to book his spot in the eSailGP Championship Final Race. A second place finish in the final fleet race for O’Donovan saw him jump up the leaderboard. Although he finished on the same points as Greek eSailor Ioannis Kokonias, beating his Greek rival in the final race meant the Brit’s position in the final was secured on countback.
A final five minute match race would decide the ultimate winner. A relative newcomer to eSailing but with the experience of competing on an F50 in real-life as a grinder for the Spanish team, Cardona was the pre-race favorite. O’Donovan would have to pull out all the stops to overhaul the Spanish sailor.
Meaning business, the plucky Brit got the better of the Spanish sailor in the pre-start, before forcing a penalty on Cardona shortly afterwards, to gain an early lead. Cardona continued to fight back and managed to close the gap before throwing the race away by hitting a turning mark and incurring a penalty, leaving O’Donovan to cross the finish line first and win the inaugural eSailGP Championship.
O’Donovan said: “It feels amazing to win. Even getting into the final was a major achievement as the competition is so high, but to then beat Joan in the final is really special. I have been practicing my match racing on the eF50 and I think that is what really paid off. I can’t believe it and am especially excited to join Joan onboard the F50 in San Francisco next year. It’s pretty cool to have raced against him in eSailGP and then get the opportunity to sail with him. I can’t believe it.”
The 2021 eSailGP Championship format and dates will be announced later in the year alongside three invitational events before SailGP Season 2 restarts in San Francisco in April 2021. Re-watch the eSailGP Grand Final below: