The Japan SailGP Team moved top of the SailGP Season Championship with a fine win in Saint-Tropez, beating the United States and Spain in the Final of the France Sail Grand Prix.
Nathan Outteridge, Driver for the Japanese team, once again lived up to his nickname of the ‘wind whisperer’ by dominating in the light-air conditions, showing incredible consistency across the weekend and then putting in an elite display exactly when it mattered.
Runners-up the United States appeared to be favorites heading into the Final, topping the rankings after the five Fleet Races, but Japan’s dominating performance in the winner-takes-all clash earned them a well-deserved victory.
Following the light-air conditions on Race Day 1, the decision was made ahead of Sunday’s action to debut the new 29 meter wing - which has undergone rigorous testing over the past few weeks - to ensure the F50s were sufficiently powered.
And Outteridge, one of the few athletes to have practiced with the wing ahead of racing, made the most of this newly discovered power to skipper Japan to victory in the first Fleet Race of the day.
Denmark, cruelly hamstrung in this race when their jib sheet snapped, claimed an excellent win in the second Fleet Race, earning a respectable fifth place finish overall. This was enough to move the Danes out of last place in the Season Championship, where they were replaced by France.
Billy Besson’s team struggled on home waters to finish seventh, ahead of Australia, whose technical issues on Saturday cost the team dearly. Great Britain ranked ahead of France in sixth, failing to capitalise on their win in the opening Fleet Race of the event, and a four-point penalty for making contact with another boat summed up Ben Ainslie’s disappointing weekend.
New Zealand, meanwhile, looked set to qualify for the Final following a string of impressive results, but a last place finish in the final Fleet Race saw them miss out on the winner-takes-all podium race by just a single point. Nonetheless, a fourth place finish overall matches the Kiwis’ best-ever result in SailGP.
SailGP returns early next month with the Spain Sail Grand Prix, which takes place in Cadiz on 9-10 October.