SYDNEY (#1175) – Locals Tom Slingsby and his Australian mates should have a decided advantage on Sydney Harbor in the much-anticipated debut of SailGP, the global league founded by former America’s Cup winners Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts.
Slingsby, an Olympic gold medalist and America’s Cup champion, will be at the helm of Australia SailGP Team’s green-and-gold F50 foiling catamaran for the inaugural two-day regatta that begins Friday, Australian time (Thursday in the United States). He grew up on the North Shore of Sydney Harbor (Harbour for our friends Down Under) and his team is loaded with talent.
“I think there is a little bit of pressure for us,” Slingsby said. “We want to start this circuit on the right foot with a nice result. For me personally, this has been a life-long dream. I’m representing Australia with an all-Australian team, with a green-and-gold boat, the fastest boats in the world, and yeah I want to perform on the world stage and so does all our team. There’s a bit of pressure but I think we’re ready for it and we’re eager to get racing.”
The Aussies will be competing against teams from the United States, Great Britain, France, Japan and China.
The F50s are an updated version of the catamarans used in the 2017 America’s Cup in Bermuda and capable of hitting 50 knots.
“It’s amazing how small the harbor feels when you’re sailing one of these boats,” Slingsby said. “You can cross the harbor so quickly. It’s amazing for me to be representing Australia out on Sydney Harbor.”
The boats can go three-times the wind speed, and, as Team Japan skipper Nathan Outteridge said, can spin on a dime.
“The racing will be super dynamic, with big gains and losses,” said Outteridge, also an Australian. “The boats are going to be very rewarding if you sail them well.”
Outteridge also said the boats make Sydney Harbor feel small.
“It’s going to be a challenge keeping the boats in the boundaries and avoid each other, and I think that’s half the fun of it,” he said.
[These are highly experienced sailors racing together for the first time in technically complex, very fast yachts in restricted waters. God forbid there is a collision; if so, hopefully no one is hurt of worse. –TFE]
Rome Kirby's Team USA and the Tom Slingsby-led Team AUS training on Sydney Harbour this week in preparation for the inaugural regatta on Friday and Saturday (Thursday and Friday in the USA).
Here’s a look at the teams, in our predicted order of finish:
1. Australia. After exploring an America’s Cup campaign and determining there wasn’t enough funding to make a serious go with an Australian team, Slingsby became skipper of the SailGP team. He’s joined by wing trimmer Kyle Langford, who was his teammate with America’s Cup winner Oracle Team USA in 2013, and their teammates from the 2017 Cup, Ky Hurst and Sam Newton. They are joined by Olympian and former youth world champion Jason Waterhouse.
2. Japan. The strength of the team is Outteridge, who was tapped by Coutts to develop this team to eventually be 100-percent Japanese. Five of the six sailors have raced on the F50’s predecessor with either Artemis Racing or SoftBank Team Japan, including wing trimmer Iain Jensen, who teamed with Outteridge to win Olympic gold and silver medals in the 49er; and fellow Aussie Luke Parkinson. Up-and-coming Japanese sailors Yugo Yoshida and Yuki Kasatani were grinders on SoftBank Team Japan’s 2017 America’s Cup campaign.
3. United States. The young team is led by Rome Kirby, an America’s Cup champion and veteran of the Volvo Ocean Race. The team recently added match racing whiz Taylor Canfield, who also is skipper of one of the newest America’s Cup challengers, Stars & Stripes Team USA representing Long Beach YC. Also on the team are Hans Henken, a Moth youth world champion and Mac Agnese, who has podium finishes at two junior world championships.
4. France. The team is led by Olympian and four-time Nacra 17 world champion Billy Besson and includes the only woman on a SailGP crew, his Olympic partner Marie Riou.
5. Great Britain. The UK team is managed by Chris Draper, an Olympic bronze medalist who has sailed in two America’s Cup regattas, most recently as wing trimmer with Softbank Team Japan. The skipper and helmsman is Dylan Fletcher, a 2016 Olympian who is the current 49er world champion.
6. China. Another skipper tasked with developing national talent is World Match Race tour veteran Phil Robertson (NZL). He’s joined by America’s Cup and Olympic veterans Ed Powys (GBR) and Thomas LeBreton (FRA), as well as three Chinese sailors who have sailed for Dongfeng Race Team in recent editions of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Finally, here's how the scoring works for each event, and the six-regatta 2019 season....
Racing is Friday 4-6p Sydney time (Thursday 9-11p Pacific time), and Saturday 3-5p (Friday 8p-10p Pacific). Check SailGP.com for the live TV offering in your country. In the USA, watch it live on the SailGP Facebook page, or download the SailGP iOS app from the Apple App store and watch it on your iPhone. Android app said to be coming later this year.