Launched in October 2018, SailGP experienced a wildly successful five-race, six-team Season 1 throughout 2019. The season was highlighted by a global event audience of 1.8 billion across broadcast, social, press and in-venue audiences, and attracted more than 133,000 spectators to see the world’s fastest sail racing, while making a significant contribution to each host city, adding a total economic impact of $115 million.
Ultimately won by Tom Slingby’s Australia SailGP Team in a fierce season-long battle with Nathan Outerridge’s Japan SailGP Team, recap the five Season 1 stops below.
Event 1: Australia wins inaugural SailGP stop in Sydney, February 15-16
The first ever SailGP stop was witnessed by more than 20,000 people who took to the water on the spectacular Sydney Harbour, providing the perfect amphitheater for the season kickoff. Two intense days of racing saw six national teams do battle in the world’s most technologically advanced catamarans, competing to get the first points on the leaderboard and closer to the $1 million Season 1 prize.
The green and gold F50 race boat of the Australia SailGP Team, helmed by Olympic gold medalist Tom Slingsby, earned the title in the opening event. Pre-race favorite Nathan Outteridge and his Japanese team led after the first day and looked set to upset the home crowd, but Slingsby and his team were quick off the block on the second day, winning the first race and shortly following it up with another race win.
“We don’t take losing lightly and that first race of the event really shot us into gear,” Slingsby said. “I couldn’t be happier with how today went. I hold my team to a high standard and they really over-delivered.”
Event 2: Tom Slingsby's team wins U.S. debut of SailGP in San Francisco, May 4-5
Thousands of spectators waved their favorite teams’ colors from the packed Marina Yacht Club Peninsula Race Village as they witnessed the Australia SailGP Team repeat as champions with victory over Japan, to win the U.S. debut of SailGP at San Francisco.
After dominating the opening day, winning all three races in an impressive showing, Nathan Outteridge’s Japan SailGP Team couldn’t hold off helmsman Tom Slingsby’s charge on the final day. Proving the ultimate comeback kids, the Australians defeated the Japanese team in the final match race to win the event and go two points up in the overall season rankings and a step closer to the $1 million prize.
Outteridge later noted that a software issue meant that they were ‘sailing blind’ around the racecourse.
“We’re stoked, it’s no secret that we struggled all week. Nathan Outteridge and his team were better, but we kept saying we are going to come back. We left it late, but we did come back and won the match race and then the event,” Slingsby said.
Event 3: Outerridge's Japan take first ever SailGP event win in New York, June 21-22
In front of an estimated 30,000 people lining the waterfront in downtown Manhattan, the Japan SailGP Team – helmed by double Olympic medalist Nathan Outteridge – beat off strong competition from Tom Slingsby’s Australia SailGP Team to earn its first win.
An intense final match race with shifting winds took place between the notorious rivals on the Hudson River, which saw drama before the start as the high-powered F50s made contact. A penalty to Australia saw Japan eventually get the better of the season’s leaders and take the victory.
“We knew it would be a challenge and what I am really proud about is that our whole team focused every single step of the way,” said Outteridge. “I am relieved because we really needed a win, we deserved to win, and I am proud of everyone’s effort. The Aussies are, without a doubt, the team to beat, and I think now we are starting to even out the playing field.”
Rome Kirby’s United States SailGP Team gave the crowd a reason to cheer when they crossed the finish line first in race five to place third overall at the event.
Event 4: Australia delivers in extreme conditions at Cowes, August 10-11
In extreme conditions at the European debut of SailGP that canceled the first day of racing, Australia’s Tom Slingsby proved once again that he is the one to beat in the league’s first season. The Australia SailGP Team dominated the field with a sweep of the races while becoming the first crew to break the 50-knot speed barrier in sail racing. Meanwhile, Rome Kirby’s U.S. SailGP Team capsized in dramatic fashion and Dylan Fletcher and the British team took a violent nosedive resulting in boat damage that prevented them from finishing racing.
Earlier in the week, the Australian team sustained damage to its wing in practice and was unsure whether it would be able to race. The team made a deal with the French, who loaned the Aussies their boat in exchange for some training with Slingsby onboard.
“We were on the start with a couple of hours sailing compared to a lot more sailing from a lot of the other teams. I was definitely worried,” said Slingsby. “It was hairy out there. It might have looked easy, but it definitely wasn’t. We heard other teams were having issues and it could have so easily happened to us.”
Event 5: Australia wins historic first SailGP championship in Marseille, September 20-22
Tom Slingsby made history, helming the Australia SailGP Team to victory over Nathan Outteridge’s Japan SailGP Team in the SailGP Season 1 Championship Final Race. The global league’s inaugural season culminated with a 10-minute match race between Australia and Japan, in which Australia secured the trophy and $1 million – the largest monetary prize in sailing – in dramatic fashion.
“It feels amazing. We deserved it and I’m so happy for our whole team as the amount of work they put in was huge. We said going into today we were going to win as a team or lose as a team,” said Slingsby. “I feel for Nathan and his team. They have put in an amazing effort all year and it is just the way it is. One team has to win, and one team has got to lose. I am happy with the way it went but those guys were unbelievable competition all year and it was such a close battle.”
Race analysis determined that the final duel came down to a mere 78 centimeters at a crucial moment on the racecourse; if the Australians had been five-hundredths of a second slower, Japan could have forced them to incur a penalty. It was a risky play by Japan in an attempt to force Australia off its course that backfired and allowed Slingsby to move into the lead and ultimately take the win.