Marseille is known as one of the premier sailing venues in France, a historical hotspot for maritime history and trade. Today, Marseille will be the site of history in the making as SailGP’s Season 1 Grand Final kicks off as six of the world’s best sailors take to the water to face off for one-million dollars and the SailGP Championship trophy.
All that stands in between Nathan Outteridge’s Japan SailGP Team and the spectacular Thomas Lyte designed SailGP Championship trophy is his longtime friend and rival, Tom Slingsby of Australia. The Aussie team currently sits atop the leaderboard but Outteridge isn’t far behind – just four points. An intense battle is expected for who takes the ultimate bragging rights in the friendship.
The six national teams may have experienced light breezes during practice racing on Thursday, but the forecast is expected to ramp up for racing on the Mediterranean today with the possibility of winds gusting up to 20 knots. Marseille is known for its variable conditions and shifting winds from the mountainous coastline, meaning sailors could see similar racing to that in New York City, the only event that Slingsby lost this year.
“Nathan and the Japan team’s strongest condition is when it gets challenging, and when you’ve got to spot wind better than anyone else. We debriefed New York thoroughly. We concentrated on why we lost that event,” said Slingsby. “The forecast looks good for Japan, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and showing how we have improved.”
There’s an intense battle among the rest of the fleet for the podium. Dylan Fletcher’s British team is ready to take on the United States team, helmed by Rome Kirby, after a disappointing outcome in Cowes where they didn’t finish a race due to damage.
“We both have to finish races; both of us have not finished races,” said Kirby. “With it being top-end conditions, we are going to have to sail smart and keep the boat upright. We are going to focus on sailing our boat well.”
Both teams have been pushing their F50s to the limit, experiencing breakages and capsizes at the last two events in Cowes and New York City. Just three points on the leaderboard separate the two teams.
“We are looking for the podium and trying to overhaul the Americans,” said Dylan. “We have certainly pushed a little harder than some of the other less experienced teams this year so maybe we now need to concentrate on just finishing races.”
One team that will be looking for the home crowd support to elevate them on the leaderboard, is Billy Besson’s home team, who can’t wait to get racing and showcase the F50 to the home crowd. If practice racing is anything to go by, the French could have a glory moment in Marseille.
There will be no shortage of action or drama at the Marseille SailGP Season 1 Grand Final. For the best views of the racing, spectators should purchase a ticket for the SailGP Seawall or head out on the water on one of the spectator boat experiences.
The ‘Rade Nord’ racecourse will not be directly visible from the free SailGP Fan Zone, situated on the J4 Esplanade, but there will live broadcast and race commentary to follow the action. Other activities include the SailGP Inspire program activities - SailGP’s youth and community outreach program - that allow guests to test their skills as an F50 grinder and learn more about the world’s fastest sailing race boats.
Racing will begin with a pre-show featuring kiteboarding demonstrations and SailGP Inspire sailors showcasing their skills on the racecourse. Official races will start at 2:30 p.m. CEST.
Limited tickets remain for the Seawall, known locally as the ‘Digue du Large’. Head to SailGP.com/Marseille to buy a ticket before they sell out.
The SailGP APP is the place to go for non-locals who don’t want to miss a second of the action, available on iOS and Android platforms; fans can pick a team and access onboard data, stats, and footage from onboard the F50s.
For how to watch in your area head to SailGP.com/watch.