Gusty and shifty conditions on Marseille’s racecourse challenged competitors during Race 4 of the Marseille SailGP Season 1 Grand Final. French helmsman Billy Besson and Phil Robertson of China were first off the start line. France held onto the lead into mark one, while the British struggled for boat speed at the back of the fleet. Rome Kirby of the United States had an impressive start to race four, leading Australias Tom Slingsby at the first mark.
The French team continued its lead downwind to the first leeward gate, with China following closely behind. There was a close moment between China and France at the first leeward gate but Besson pushed to round the leeward gate in first.
By Gate 3 there was a shakeup of the fleet, Outteridge climbed from third into the top two ahead of the China team.
French fans went wild for the home team, who led for more than half the race, Japan and China following closely. While France worked to maintain their boat speed, a port-starboard interaction forced Besson to aggressively duck behind Outteridge on Leg 3 upwind into windward mark.
Ahead of the French, Japan moved into lead, while Slingsby’s tactical decisions allowed Australia to climb from the back of the fleet into third. Australia sailed 265 meters less than Japan on leg three.
Japan, Australia and France converged on the windward gate, Outteridge and Besson chose the left side of the course, while Slingsby went to the right. The decision paid off for Outteridge who extended his lead into gate four, followed by Besson.
The final leg of race four shocked audiences as Australia used their upwind advantage to move into the first place, after Japan lost their boat speed on a bad maneuver. Robertson and his China team saw an opportunity to move into the top three, crossing the line third in front of the French.
At the back of the fleet, America's Rome Kirby and Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher were neck and neck but ultimately it was the United States who claimed fifth.
Japan led off the start line of race five, with China and France challenging just behind the leader. Slingsby was noticeably less aggressive, starting Saturday's second race in last place.
Phil Robertson and the China SailGP Team were on a mission, leading at the first gate followed by Japan and Australia, who redeemed a disappointing start.
Robertson used his match race prowess on the water today, staying ahead of the two top teams. In an intense moment, Outteridge was forced to cross behind China at the first top gate, putting the F50s windward hull just over the stern of Robertson's boat.
Robertson and Slingsby moved into a significant lead over the rest of the fleet on leg 4. Robertson handily extended his dominant position over the fleet to score China's first ever SailGP race win, ahead of Slingsby.
Recognized as the most improved boat in the fleet by Slingsby, this was Robertson's first race win of SailGP and is a sweet victory for fans of the Chinese team.
Eager to redeem his back of the fleet finish in race 5, Rome Kirby and the American team led off the start line and into the first mark of race six. Outteridge followed by only four seconds, then Australia, France, China and finally Great Britain.
Gate two saw Australia move into the top position, and Japan into second. Slingsby owned the lead from the first leeward gate, leaving Japan more than 30 seconds behind.
Winds died off after the first bottom mark rounding, putting Outteridge on the offense, looking for shifts and gusts on the water to put them at an advantage and move ahead of the Australians.
At mark three, France, Australia, and the United States were parked so tightly; the skippers could’ve reached out and touched their competitors’ boat.
As the wind shut off, it was a drift race to the finish, with the top five boats concentrating hard to generate as much boat speed as possible out of their F50s.
With Outteridge’s reputation for finding wind in frustrating conditions, it’s no surprise that the Japan SailGP Team took the win for race six. Slingsby finished second, while France overtook China just before the finish. China and Britain are now tied for the third place, and France and the United States are tied for fourth. All to play for on the final day of Marseille SailGP Season 1 Grand Final.