Sydney Harbour provided a spectacular backdrop for the launch of SailGP. Pre-favorite Japan SailGP Team capitalized on slick crew work and prior big foiling catamaran experience on day 1 of the world premiere of SailGP.
The Japanese team, led by Nathan Outteridge, posted a huge victory in race 1 followed by two second places, a performance that has them leading the hometown favorites by one point midway through the championship opening event.
With adrenaline coursing through the veins and cool heads, Slingsby’s Australian team rallied for two commanding comeback wins, in races 2 and 3. Their surprise fourth in the opening race pulled the team in behind the overall leader Japan when the day’s points were counted.
“Our team did really well,” said Japan SailGP Team helmsman Outteridge. “That was the first time we’ve ever done a race together as a group. We made some errors but obviously we made less errors than everyone else. For the first day of SailGP and the first day for our team I couldn’t ask for more.
“It was an incredible day. The breeze came in at the perfect moment and it was fantastic to see so many people out watching. There were some really good battles on the water; we loved every moment of it.”
Slingsby put their disappointing race 1 result down to poor boat handling on the revolutionary F50, and failing to pick the right side of the course in tricky easterlies, between 6 and 10 knots. Although did hit the top speed of the day, reaching 34 knots in under 10 knots of breeze.
“It wasn’t the start we wanted,” Australia SailGP Team helmsman Tom Slingsby admitted. “We had a list of things to go through after that and we got better starts and got away from the pack. When we sailed by ourselves it was pretty obvious to see we are fast. We just have to get out of the pack and get free.”
The rivalry between the six national teams was strong but at the top of the fleet the fight between the Australian and Japanese team was heating up.
“It’s out of Nathan’s hands; if we perform we’ll beat him,” said Slingsby, who finished the day on 27 points.
Outteridge shot back with, “The Australians are easily beatable – they beat us today because we made mistakes.”
Day one of the two-day championship drew overwhelming support from thousands of people on spectator vessels and those enjoying the front row fan seats on Shark Island.
Third overall on the pointscore is the Great Britain SailGP skippered by Dylan Fletcher.
Racing continues on Saturday February 16 before the championship moves to Event 2, in San Francisco.