High drama on the Bay ahead of San Francisco SailGP

30 APRIL 2019News
All six F50s hit the water for a wet and wild practice racing session in San Francisco Bay.

SAN FRANCISCO - April 30, 2019 – San Francisco turned it on for the first day of practice racing at the U.S debut of SailGP, challenging the six teams to their limits and nearly ending one team’s event chances.

For the first time on San Francisco Bay, the six SailGP teams representing the home team from the United States and rival teams from Australia, China, France, Great Britain and Japan hit the racecourse in anticipation of the May 4- 5 grand prix.

With the Golden Gate Bridge standing proud over the racecourse, San Francisco Bay lived up to its reputation as one of the most challenging sailing venues in the world with strong sea breezes, ripping tides and choppy waters. Winds kicked up into the afternoon, heightening the intensity and pushing the world’s best sailors to the limits.

After getting incredibly close in prior training, the magic 50 knot (60 mph) number proved elusive yet again, and it was more a case of bringing the crews and boats home safely at the end of the day.

The Australia SailGP Team was the fastest boat on the racecourse, reaching a top speed of 47 knots, but Tom Slingsby, the Australian helm is on the hunt for more.

“I never really cared too much about being the first team to hit 50 knots. But now it’s a pretty frustrating being so close and not having done it yet. We definitely want to be the first team to do this.”

China SailGP Team take a dramatic nose dive, resulting in wing breakage.

The Japan and Great Britain SailGP teams squared off, showed impressive boat handling and finesse on the water, ultimately dominating practice racing.

“It was fantastic to have all six boats out there today. The weather was at the top end, and we were all a little bit scared at the time, but it was brilliant racing. I hope that it was good for everyone out there to watch because it was super exciting in the boat, hair raising,” said Great Britain SailGP helm Dylan Fletcher.

For one team there was a heart stopping moment that nearly ended their championship chances, when the red hulls of the China team came crashing down from the foils, in what helm Phil Robertson called, “the scariest moment I have ever had on a yacht.”

Robertson continued, “We went into a bear away, the conditions were fairly fresh, the boat speed built, and I just didn’t get enough rake off in the moment. The boat literally leapt out of the water, nose-dived and we destroyed most of the wing.”

Although hopeful that they would be back out racing for the practice race on Friday, Robertson added, “We will get her fixed up. There is an amazing technical team on shore that is here, and they are the best in the sport at it and they are going to fix her up over the next couple of days and hopefully we will be back on Friday if all goes well.”

Lining up for a practice start, with Alcatraz in the background.

If the race preview today is any indication toward this weekend’s showdown, fans are in for some of the most heart-stopping racing the Bay has ever seen.

“Fans are going to see some thrills and spills for sure, if today is anything to go by. Teams are trying new things, there’s high action, and the racecourse is super close to the shore. You can almost hear the people onshore when you are sailing around. I think if anyone is in San Francisco this weekend, they’ve got to come and check it out,” said Japan SailGP helm Nathan Outteridge.

The official practice day kicks off on Friday May 3, with racing commencing over the weekend, concluding on Sunday afternoon with the top two teams going head to head in a match race finale. The San Francisco SailGP Race Village, located on the Marina Yacht Club Peninsula, will serve as the center of the festivities, an ideal place to take in the race action and cheer on the national teams.

Limited tickets are available at SailGP.com/SanFrancisco.