PLYMOUTH, UK – July 17, 2021 – The United States SailGP Team currently sits in first place on the leaderboard at the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in Plymouth after an unexpected opening day tested the nerves of the new team – repelling a ‘black flag’ incident from the Spain SailGP Team in a ‘must win’ third race.
After second and fifth place finishes in the first two races respectively, the American team needed a strong result in the third and final race of the day if they were to stay in contention for tomorrow’s final podium race.
Moments from the start, a last-minute, diving maneuver towards the line by spanish driver Phil Robertson – a move that has caused concern amongst league officials at previous events – placed the US team once again in the path of a potential, unsolicited collision.
US SailGP Team Driver Jimmy Spithill, with the right-of-way in leeward position, quickly bore away to avoid contact while Pilot Rome Kirby protested the infringement to race umpires who disqualified the Spanish team, resulting in the first ‘black flag’ decision of SailGP.
“How many times do we have to see it?” said Spithill. “It’s obvious Phil has done this more than once. It’s not his first offense, it’s well past three strikes. I’m not at all surprised to see him black flagged.”
The black flag disqualification was instituted following several racing incidents at this season’s Bermuda Sail Grand Prix to deter future contact between teams.
“He either was going to crash into the mark and hurt someone on his boat or crash into us and hurt someone on our boat,” continued Spithill. “When you see it happen at MotoGP or at Formula One they start fining and penalizing the driver for the very reason that you can hurt other people. The fact that this isn’t his first time doing something like that, I think it’s justified.”
Clear of the incident, Spithill accelerated and the American team extended their lead to end the day with a convincing win, placing themselves in strong contention to qualify for the podium finals tomorrow.
“To have a shot at the trophy and the $1 million at the end, you need to try and qualify for as many final races as you can to put yourself in the ultimate final in San Francisco and that’s certainly our goal,” said Spithill. “We’ve yet to get through a weekend and finish all the races without something happening to us so we’ll take it day-by-day. We’re always learning.”
The results today confirmed the increasing competitiveness of an already tight fleet with early dominance by the Australian SailGP Team contested by strong performances by both the French and Danish SailGP Teams who will fight to book a trip to the podium finals as well.
According to SailGP rules, only the top-three placed teams after five qualifying races will advance to the final podium race – the same race where the US team narrowly missed out on victory in Italy after striking a submerged object while leading with the finish line in sight.
The final day of the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix will air live on CBS Sports Network tomorrow, Sunday, July 18 at 9:30am ET. Racing will also be available live streaming on the SailGP APP, Facebook, and YouTube channels.