While the Australia and Japan SailGP teams have dominated the top of the leaderboard for season one, the clash for third place has waged on amongst the other four teams. Only seven points separate third and sixth place, and twenty points remain up for grabs in Marseille SailGP Season 1 Grand Final. While each of the teams has had their stand-out moments, it would be difficult for even the biggest fan to speculate on the outcome of the podium.
The race for the podium intensified on Saturday when Phil Robertson came out swinging to tie with the Great Britain SailGP Team for third place on the overall leaderboard. Both teams currently have 162 points.
Phil Robertson, the helmsman of the China SailGP Team, is a World Match Racing Tour champion, with no shortage of hardware on his trophy shelf. The Chinese started season one as the least experienced team but quickly accelerated the learning curve and proved themselves worthy competitors in Marseille. The team put its first ever race win on the leaderboard, showing they could keep pace with the best of the fleet.
While Robertson joked that it would take something drastic for his team to make the final match race, the racing on Saturday showed that the podium isn't out of the question for his team yet.
"We did think we would be contending the podium going into the final day of Season 1. We knew we were six points off coming into this event. No one talked about us, gave us any respect, so a lot of the focus was to claw into these guys and be fighting for third place. To be in that position going into the last race is pretty good," said Robertson.
The Great Britain SailGP Team has faced challenges of its own during season one, capsizing in New York City and suffering a dramatic nosedive that caused it to be unable to complete any races in Cowes.
Marseille's first day of racing allowed the Union Jack squad to make a comeback over its American rivals, putting top-three finishes in all three races which kept them in contention for the podium despite a challenging Saturday on the Rade de Marseille.
"We've certainly pushed harder than some of the less experienced teams this year. We've wanted to close the gap on the top two boats," said Dylan Fletcher, British helmsman. "We are looking for the podium."
The United States SailGP Team had a spectacular finish mid-way through the season, when they beat both the Australia and Japan SailGP Teams on its Hudson Bay homecourt at New York SailGP.
After a disappointing start to the Marseille event for the Americans, that left them in fourth with 155 points, helmsman Rome Kirby was eager to put points on the board and chase down the British and Chinese teams.
"We have nothing to lose now, we were on the podium, and now we are not- its game on for us," said Kirby. "We have faced adversity in the past, and we will be fine."
While Saturday's racing didn't bring much improvement for the young United States team, the fleet is close enough for two races to turn the standings upside-down.
Billy Besson has French fans hyped on his performance in Marseille. Besson and the France SailGP Team have shown up for their home event, consistently starting in the first-place position and showing they can pace themselves with the best teams on the course. They are only one point behind the Americans overall, with 154 points.
“We started exactly like SailGP: we started small and we’re growing little by little, now reaching the final in Marseille,” said Besson. “We have really worked a lot on the boat data and breaking down the maneuvers.”
Only today's racing will determine who claims the final podium position, and who falls flat.