TARANTO, ITALY – 5 June 2021 - A light sea breeze in Taranto added a challenge for the SailGP Teams as the full fleet sailed with just three athletes onboard during practice racing today ahead of the first-ever Italy Sail Grand Prix (live on Sky Sport at 11.30pm NZT tonight).
With light winds expected to continue over the coming days, SailGP Race Management trialled reducing the crew from five to three athletes to allow for a lower takeoff speed, with Arnaud Psarofaghis, Jason Saunders and Andy Maloney remaining onboard the New Zealand SailGP Team F50.
In the event that racing takes place in light winds, the racing rules allow teams to reduce crew numbers so they were testing with three crew which is the configuration for the lightest wind conditions.
It was yet another challenge for a new-look New Zealand SailGP Team looking to get up to speed against some of the sport’s best athletes, but Maloney said he was pleased with the team’s progress.
“On day one we had some pretty good breeze and then yesterday and today we had the forecasted conditions for the rest of the week - a bit more of a light sea breeze, so today we sailed with three up for the first time. Each day has brought its new challenges but we’re trying to learn as much as we can each night and we’re really happy with the progress we’re making. It’ll just be about putting it together in the racing.”
Psarofaghis, who is filling in for Peter Burling as the driver, said the team had shown promising signs during the practice races that it will be competitive come race day: “Today was a really positive day because we got going with the starting package. We got off the line in a nice spot every time and we had some great comebacks on the fleet.
“It was a really special day because it was the first time everyone was sailing with three people onboard so it was a big job for just three people but we learned a lot.
“I’m feeling really excited for proper racing and we’re going to try to push even harder than today to make sure we put on a good show.”
Psarofaghis said he had been receiving plenty of sound advice from Burling while Burling and Blair Tuke take a supporting role for the next two SailGP events to prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“Pete gave me some great advice. He didn’t put any pressure on my shoulders, he just told me to go out there and enjoy your day with the team and just have fun, that’s the most important part.”
Psarofaghis said he was thrilled with the way he had been embraced by his new teammates.
“I’ve really enjoyed joining this team. It doesn’t feel like I’m new, it feels like I’ve known them for a long time even though we only met each other four days ago and they’ve been really kind to me. I feel at home and it’s really nice to sail and to help the New Zealand SailGP Team for this event.”
The Italy Sail Grand Prix will comprise two days of racing, with five fleet races followed by a podium race with the top three boats in the ultimate showdown to decide the winner on Sunday.
You can watch all the action from the Italy Sail Grand Prix live on Sky Sport from 11.30pm NZT tonight. For full viewing details visit sailgp.com/watch