Taranto, Italy, put on a great show for the eight SailGP teams this weekend. In what commentator David ‘Freddie’ Carr called the best light wind racing he had ever seen, the leaderboard was constantly changing. In the end it was the Japan SailGP Team, driven by Nathan Outteridge, who took the win after the USA SailGP Team broke their rudder at the final downwind gate in the final podium race.
The British outfit finished the first ever Italian Sail Grand Prix in the stunning Taranto Harbour in sixth place, slipping one place to second in the overall League standings after the first two events of the season.
In his first event at the wheel of an F50, interim driver Paul Goodison, who is substituting for Ben Ainslie for two events, may have been frustrated at the result but is positive looking forward to the team’s home event in Plymouth next month: “Another tricky and light day out there today, super light winds again between 10-18KPH but it made a big difference to have the big grinders back on the front which made it a lot easier to control the boat. That freed me up to have my head out of the boat, looking for the pressure and the shifts.
“There were definitely passing lanes in these conditions with the breeze being light, unstable and very shifty. If you could get the right shift you can be doing 45-50KPH, with the other teams are off their foils.
“Next up is Plymouth and we are really looking forward to it, you can’t beat racing on home waters with the crowd cheering. We hope it brings more breeze than the typical Mediterranean conditions we have had here in Italy, and we put on a good show for that home crowd.
“I wanted to help the team put on much better show and that’s disappointing, but we can take a lot away. Our motto this week has been ‘let’s get better every day’ and we feel we have done that.”
Race 4 – New Zealand SailGP Team WIN
The first race of the second day of the Italy Sail Grand Prix saw lighter than forecast conditions of 8-15KPH breeze, which resulted in a test to stay on the foils for each team with the added weight of the teams returning to full five-person crews.
It was a strong start for the New Zealand SailGP Team, led by Swiss interim driver Arnaud Psarofaghis, who locked out the French at the start line, forcing them to the back of the fleet. The Kiwi team were the first F50 to get up flying on their foils, which gave them a significant early lead.
The British were the only boat foiling into the start line, but there was no room to go behind the USA team, which resulted in the British F50 falling off its foils and dropping to the back of the fleet. The team, however, led by Goodison, pulled it back and sailed a good race to make up two places to finish sixth.
Race 5 – Japan SailGP Team WIN
Going into the final fleet race the Great Britain SailGP Team still had a sniff at the podium and getting into the final winner takes all race, and were in need of a good start. It looked like it would be a great start but unfortunately USA were ahead over the line, with the British in the dirty air behind not them allowing the acceleration to get the bow out ahead.
With the south-westerly breeze picking up slightly to 13-18KM/H, it was another dramatic start for the fleet, the Spanish team were squeezed out the start line by Outteridge’s Japanese. The Australian SailGP Team, meanwhile, had a strong start to take the initial lead.
With Japan and USA already securing their place in the final ‘podium’ race, the battle was on behind between New Zealand and Spain for the final spot in the winner-takes-all race. The Kiwi team seemed to have the advantage, until a misjudged port-starboard cross with the British boat gave the Kiwis a penalty dropping behind Goodison’s crew.
The race was won convincingly by Outteridge’s Japan team, ahead of the Australian crew. The British finished fourth, ahead of the Spanish in fifth, which was enough for Robertson’s team to join the Japanese and Americans in the final.
Podium Race – Japan SailGP Team WIN
With the wind continuing to drop off, the teams returned to their lighter three-person configurations for the final winner-takes-all podium race of the Italy Sail Grand Prix.
It was a strong start for both Jimmy Spithill’s USA SailGP Team and Outteridge’s Japan SailGP Team, who timed their entry through the start gate perfectly. Phil Robertson’s Spanish crossed slightly early, giving them a penalty, with the Americans taking the early lead.
Despite the Americans falling off their foils into the fourth gate, they maintained their lead for the majority of the race until a significant incident at the next gate. As Spithill’s American crew rounded the mark, their F50 collided with an unidentified submerged object on the penultimate leg, breaking their rudder and forcing the team to retire from racing.
That incident gave the win to Japan with Spain close behind and propelling the Spanish to the top of the overall League leaderboard, now one point ahead of the Great Britain SailGP Team.