SailGP fans were out in force in Taranto on Sunday to watch Japan win the Italy Sail Grand Prix and be crowned the second event champion of Season 2.
With on-shore tickets sold out and nearly 1,000 boats on the water watching the Race Day 2 action, Season 1 runner up Japan beat Spain and the United States - the latter of whom broke down in dreadfully unfortunate circumstances - in the winner-takes-all podium Final to claim ItalySGP victory and add ten points to its total in the Season Championship.
The Japanese now sit third in the overall leaderboard with 14 points, with fellow finalists Spain moving into first place after fourth and second-place finishes in the first two events of the season. Great Britain, winners of the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix last time out, sit second despite a disappointing sixth-placed finish in Taranto under interim driver Paul Goodison.
The Final saw the return of three crew onboard each F50 due to light winds in Taranto, with the same ruling made for each of the three fleet races on Race Day 1. While Sunday’s two fleet races, won by New Zealand and Japan respectively, featured five crew onboard, the decision was made to reduce the crew once again for the winner-takes-all podium race.
Nathan Outteridge drove the Japanese F50 brilliantly in the three-up configuration on Saturday, and again showed his strength with only three crew onboard during the Final. A fierce battle between all three qualifiers, Japan, the US and Spain, was ended prematurely when Jimmy Spithill’s F50 broke down, and Outteridge kept his nerve to hold off the Spanish in the final legs to cross the finish line for a first event win of the season.
Japan driver Outteridge said: “With three people onboard you don’t have much time to look at the competition, but when the United States wiped out it was a really easy decision to tack straight away and that effectively won us the race.
“There wasn’t really a perfect race this weekend, but sometimes you have to get lucky and take it. And we’ll thank Jimmy Spithill for that one!
On the reduction to three crew for the Final, Outteridge added: “Luckily we were sailing with three yesterday, so that was a good start. But because there are different weight categories we actually start with lead on board when we race with five because our crew weight is pretty light, so we had to scramble to get the lead off and remember what we were doing yesterday.
“You might have noticed that some of our maneuvers in that race were not as good as yesterday, because we didn’t do any training for three-up today. So it was quite a big surprise to us, but Chris [Draper] and Tim [Morishima] did a fantastic job, and the whole crew did an awesome job, and we were really happy with how we went into it.”
New Zealand, who struggled on Race Day 1 with interim driver Arnaud Psarofaghis getting his first taste of SailGP, began Sunday emphatically - knowing qualification for the Final was still in the team’s grasp. A win in race four - aided by a brilliant starting manoeuvre to block France - had Psarofaghis’ team within touching distance of the Final, where it hoped to join the United States and Japan, who qualified by finishing second and third in the race behind the Kiwis.
But Psarofaghis’ dream debut was dulled by Spain, who finished two places ahead of the Kiwis in race five to end the fleet races two points clear of New Zealand in third to qualify for the Final. Japan, already qualified, stormed to victory in the last fleet race, with Australia coming in second in its best performance of the weekend by some distance.
Nonetheless, the Aussies couldn’t climb higher than last place in the event rankings, while France, who qualified for the Final in Bermuda last time out, endured a disappointing Italian event to finish seventh. The Brits, Denmark and New Zealand completed the event rankings in sixth, fifth and fourth respectively.