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Rome Kirby, CEO & helmsman of the United States SailGP Team
Rome Kirby, CEO & helmsman of the United States SailGP Team

Rome Report

As one of the first teams to sea trial the new F50, the United States SailGP Team met in New Zealand last month. Conditions ranged from light to heavy air, providing a range to help the team hit its goals. Skipper Rome Kirby is pleased with all that the team accomplished, on and off the water.

He recalled one of his favorite moments from the second day sailing, when the team did a foiling tack. “Needless to say, we were all pretty fired up,” Kirby said.

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The team, which includes young talents Mac Agnese, Dan Morris, Hans Henken and Riley Gibbs, is no stranger to speed and foiling across high-performance boats like the 49er, Marstrom 32s, GC32s and Nacra 17s.

“The guys had their eyes opened to just how intense the F50 is. This boat is 10 times the power; it’s just another level,” Kirby said.

To that end, a major focus of the team’s time together centered around building solid communication. In addition to boat time, the sailors did team workouts, explored the area and worked on land to get to know the boat. According to Kirby, all of this time helps to establish the team camaraderie that is so important.

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Once on the water, they worked on applying many of the learnings from their simulator sessions earlier this fall. “Our goals in London were very specific, and finally getting on board gave us the needed chance to test out those skills and get a real-world feel for how this new design and boards would react,” he said.

Mac Agnese

Kirby is the only U.S. team member with experience on the F50’s predecessor, the AC50. He’s impressed with the modifications the SailGP technical team made and appreciates the battery-powered additions to (slightly) reduce the incredibly physical nature of the previous generation. “The F50 is definitely more challenging to sail because of the board changes, and ability to hit speeds in excess of 50 knots.”

In all, Kirby believes the time that the team spent in New Zealand helped the group come together and take huge strides forward.

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“We improved with every session,” Kirby said. “I think our biggest success was coming together as a team and seeing the boat handling improve. Next, we reunite in Sydney a few weeks prior to the event to continue our training and see how we stack up once there are multiple boats on the water.

“Sydney promises to be something to see with six of these machines in close quarters.”

Inside New Zealand Sea Trials