Get Ready for the SailGP Season Debut
The foiling F-50s of America’s Cup fame are back, supercharged with new technology and sail platforms, as the second season of the high-octane Grand Prix-style circuit of eight SailGP regattas staged in some of the most iconic sailing venues in the world kicks off this weekend in Hamilton, Bermuda.
The brainchild of New Zealand’s Russell Coutts, the series continues with races in Italy, Great Britain, Denmark, France, Spain, New Zealand, and the United States with a winner-take-all prize of $1 million awaiting the victorious team. That winner will be crowned in San Francisco Bay in late March, 2022.
The 2020 season of Sail GP was cancelled because of Covid-19 concerns. The Australian entry helmed by Tom Slingsby won the 2019 season. The US boat, skippered by Rome Kirby, came in a disappointing last place among the six 2019 Sail GP competitors.
Vowing to do better this year, the US team has beefed up its talent pool with the acquisition of two-time America’s Cup winning skipper Jimmy Spithill. It was on these same Bermuda waters in 2017 that Spithill lost the America’s Cup 7-1 to the Challenger Team New Zealand. Recently, Spithill was co-helmsman on Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli America’s Cup Challenger in Auckland, New Zealand. Spithill lost that effort to the Kiwis as well. Kirby will continue with the team as flight controller.
The roster of all-start sailing talent at the helms of the 2021-22 Sail GP fleet reads like a who’s who of international racing royalty. In addition to Spithill, notables include:
- For Team New Zealand, New Zealand’s America’s Cup winner helmsman Peter Burling and flight controller Blair Tuke.
- For Team Great Britain, America’s Cup contender and the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time Sir Ben Ainslie.
- For Japan, Australia’s Nathan Outteridge whose 2020 Sail GP entry China came in a close second in the final standings. He wiHHe will be joined by Luna Rossa helmsman Francesco Bruni.
- For Australia, Season One winner Tom Slingsby.
This year marks the first time females will be sailing crew members. The New Zealand boat has two females listed on their roster. The US team will be joined by 2016 and 2019 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Daniela Moroz .
This year’s kickoff has been marked by Covid-19 concerns as the country went into a seven-day stay-at-home lockdown last week just ahead of the arrival of many of teams and their boats. It was only yesterday that the Kiwis were able to launch their boat and to begin initial sea trials. Peter Burling has gone on record in warning New Zealand fans not “to expect too much from the team the start. We are just now getting to know the boat. The learning curve will be steep.”
The teams collaborate on technology. This was evidenced earlier this week when the Australian team capsized the American boat in which they were practicing. There was some visible damage to the sail area. The US team says it will be ready to go come April 24.
The format includes three rounds of fleet racing following by a match race pitting the two teams with the highest point total against each other.
You can catch the action by tuning into CBS Sports at 6 pm Eastern Time on April 24 (delayed broadcast) and live at 1 p.m. April 25.
~By Craig Ligibel