New York is a city of opportunity, especially for the talented athletes competing in SailGP. For any one of these teams, the racing at New York SailGP could skyrocket them up the leaderboard or bring them crashing down.
Currently the Australia SailGP Team is dominating the racing with two first-place finishes in both Sydney and San Francisco, but here, on his East Coast home turf, Rome Kirby and the United States SailGP Team are ready to dethrone the champion.
On Thursday morning, a crowd gathered as CEO Russell Coutts unveiled the SailGP trophy, a work of art by master silversmith Thomas Lyte. The six helmsmen watched on with anticipation, wondering who would lift the trophy overhead at the end of Season 1 in victory, but no one wanting to touch it, to ensure they didn’t jinx their chance of success
"It's going to be fantastic for one of these guys to be etched into the trophy and be the first one to win it,” said Coutts. "It will be quite something else."
There's no doubt that Rome Kirby wants that trophy as much as anyone.
The American team saw massive improvement and gained confidence on San Francisco Bay and has been training hard to be in contention for points on the leaderboard, but it won't make the podium without getting the better of a highly competitive fleet. The Japanese team wants revenge after being taken out by the Australians at the last minute, and Great Britain is keen to maintain its place on the podium or go one better.
New York City's iconic skyline will come with its own set of challenges for the competitors, the racecourse will require a head-out-of-the-boat approach, meaning the helmsmen and flight controllers will have to be constantly looking ahead of them for shifts in the wind or big gusts of breeze that can help them tactically move forward of their rivals.
"Tomorrow's forecast shows to be the windiest conditions we've seen on SailGP so far,” said Kirby. "This is the smallest sailing area so far, so it's going to get pretty exciting, pretty quick."
On both Friday and Saturday, winds are expected to increase to over 20 knots and some of the highest speeds could be clocked as the flat race course conditions will be ideal for foiling. The super-charged F50s can reach speeds four times the wind velocity, meaning this weekend could be the perfect opportunity for a team to shatter the 50-knot barrier.
"Throwing six of these boats on this course is going to be spectacular, I can tell you, it's going to be outrageous,” said Slingsby. We're probably all a bit nervous as a sailor, I certainly am, but for the fans, it will probably be something you've never seen before."
One million dollars awaits the winner of SailGP's inaugural season, and this event, the halfway point for the season, will be indicative of how the leaderboard could shake out.
The six teams hoped to get a final chance to test out the racecourse on the Hudson, but Thursday's afternoon lightning storms and rough weather didn't allow for practice racing. With less training on the water beforehand, it will be even more of a surprise as to how each team plans to challenge in New York City. In less than 24 hours we will know.
All the details on New York SailGP can be found here.