SailGP has moved to Aarhus for the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix, the fourth event of Season 2.
The eight teams will compete on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st in the cool waters of the Kattegat for 5 races followed by the podium final which will decide the winner of the Danish event. Third in the season rankings, just one point behind the leaders, the French team led by Billy Besson will try to stay ahead of the pack by maintaining its consistency in terms of starts and maneuvers. This fourth act of season 2 is all the more important as in 3 weeks, the French team will be racing at home and in front of its own fans in Saint-Tropez for the France Sail Grand Prix. The objective is to arrive strong and serene and to offer a superb show! At the end of 3 Grands Prix and on the eve of the Danish event, Bruno Dubois, team manager, gives an assessment:
You are third in the Season Championship, what does that mean to you? Are you following your initial plan?
It corresponds to the plan we had given ourselves at the beginning - that is to say that we first worked on the organization of our maneuvers - so as not to have any deficiency at that level and to succeed as well as the other teams in all the maneuvers in all the conditions. Then we worked on communication, because we have Leigh McMillan on board who doesn't speak French, so we had to rationalize our communication so that it was clear and precise.
Another point: to have marching orders before each race so that we are always in the starting zone at a certain moment with a certain routine. We can't afford to improvise against the likes of Ben Ainslie, Tom Slingsby or Jimmy Spithill... They are very aggressive helmsmen on the start line, so if we start behind them, we'll stay behind them almost all the time. And that order works well now.
What are the strong points of the French team and the ways to improve its level?
We are trying to optimize our strong point which is the regularity and the teamwork. We must rely on a team that can work well together. Our strong point is also experience; in general we are not too afraid to attack when we have to attack. So there you have it, a team that runs well with regularity in a championship with points!
Our next focus will be on downwind and upwind speed because we have a small deficit compared to the other teams. We can't tackle all the development points at the same time on the same weekend as we have very few days of training.
We will continue to work on these different aspects (communication/speed/maneuvers) in all conditions, from 3 knots to 30 knots of wind, with a full crew of 5 people, and with a reduced crew of 3. We have not yet had the opportunity to validate everything.
How is this fourth Grand Prix in Aarhus shaping up?
We had very strong winds on the practice day with gusts to 30 knots and a peak speed of 52 knots for the Great Britain team. But for Friday and Saturday, we expect average wind conditions. The good thing is that we are no longer considered as a second level team since we are in the pack and we play well in the regularity. We still have some work to do to get to the front and especially to stay ahead.
Beyond sports, what other projects are you developing within the team?
We are working on different projects in parallel. We have started to develop a general strategy to integrate female athletes. In parallel to our existing sailing team and outside of SailGP - because we have very little time during the events - we are developing a group of female sailors who will be able to join the team, I hope soon, as full-time sailors on the F50.
Amélie Riou and Hélène Noesmoen are part of this program, but we also have other people who have just returned from the Olympic Games and to whom we also want to give a chance to join the team. It is a long-term project, with other external partners who will help us. Secondly, we have developed a "mentoring" program within the team in order to develop, share and enrich ourselves with new knowledge and skills. So, if an athlete wants to develop skills in communication, or if a person from the technical team wants to know more about data analysis, it is possible within the France SailGP Team.
We also work a lot on the Impact League. We have almost doubled our points in the Leaderboard, so we try as a team to have actions and gestures that reduce as much as possible our footprint on the planet, especially in the cities that host us.