Some of the most skilled sailors on the planet, the most technological advanced boats, and a venue with a storied past, in just 24 hours the showdown begins on San Francisco Bay. The patriotic wing sails of the turbo-charged F50s have been seen flashing across the harbor all week, but the real action kicks off Saturday when official racing begins.
A high-pressure system from the Northwest driving the weekend’s weather will up the intensity for athletes. Classic San Francisco conditions are expected on the North Bay course between Alcatraz and The Golden Gate, with steady breezes 12 – 15 knots out of the west south west, building to 15 – 20 knots. Athletes could be challenged by potential gusts up to 23 knots, testing both their abilities and the limits of their high-performance catamarans. There’s a strong chance the 50-knot barrier will be finally hit on the racetrack this weekend. The sea state will pose a challenge for the foiling F50s, rougher sea states with waves over half a meter high will definitely test the finesse of flight controllers and helmsmen.
Glory, dominance, and the chance to race for a million-dollar purse remain on the line for the six nations on the start line this weekend.
Anticipation hangs in the air along the Bayfront hosting the race village on the Marina Yacht Club Peninsula. Since Sydney, the boats have seen streamlined technological upgrades, including a new flight control system. The F50s have more precision and speed this week on San Francisco Bay than ever before. And fans in San Francisco will have courtside seats to every second of the action.
Teams have been pushing the limits in high winds on The Bay, already this week has brought challenges and boat break downs for several teams, including the Chinese team who are racing the clock to replace their wing sail after a crash gybe. The athletes have been modifying their boat handling and walking the fine line between pushing or staying conservative.
Who to watch out for
The hometown heroes have shown significant improvement in performance since their debut in Sydney. The young U.S. team, led by Rome Kirby, has plenty of experience on San Francisco Bay. Their growth has been exponential, and they could prove to be serious contenders.
"Expect exhilarating racing, we had practice racing earlier this week, and it was very full-on. We saw big breakdowns and near capsizes. If we have classic San Francisco Bay conditions, it's going to be action-packed and exciting," said grinder Mac Agnese.
The Australian SailGP Team plans to defend their win in Sydney. And Tom Slingsby isn’t holding back.
“It’s going to be exciting racing, and for us, it’s about success and having the Australian fans behind us. We want to be an iconic Australian team, much like other Australian Sports Teams, The Wallabies and The Kangaroos,” said the Aussie helmsmen and CEO. “We have genuine rivalries with these other countries, whether it’s the Brits or USA or Team Japan and we want to kick their ass. The more support the better.”
The Great Britain SailGP team has been on the hunt for a top spot on the leaderboard, currently ranked third, but showing aggression to climb the ranks. The team has been taking an analytical approach to their training, their team meetings focus on pushing the boat at the right time in tricky conditions on The Bay. Their attention to detail is paying off, the British boat was noticeably steady on the racetrack this week.
"We've been working really hard and had excellent training here, we've had more space for sailing the boat than in Sydney, which has allowed us to work on maneuvering," said helmsmen Dylan Fletcher of their progress. "Everyone has upped their game. It will be a much closer competition. It's great for everyone involved and good fun for us to sail."
This is a high-adrenaline competition that's never been seen before in the sailing arena. Racing will begin in San Francisco Bay and online on the app at 12pm PST, Saturday, May 4. With broadcast agreements in place that span 91 countries across five continents, fans will be able to tune in across the globe to watch the high-speed action in San Francisco.