SAN FRANCISCO (#1222) – Sailing fans should get ready for what could be a wild weekend of F50 foiling catamaran racing when SailGP makes its U.S. debut on San Francisco Bay. The new global league, founded by Russell Coutts (NZL) and Larry Ellison (USA), will hold its second regatta Saturday and Sunday on a course between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.
The Australian SailGP Team, led by America’s Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist Tom Slingsby (AUS), will be looking to make it consecutive wins after beating Team Japan, led by Nathan Outteridge (AUS), in the final of the inaugural regatta on Sydney Harbor in mid-February.
The Aussies have been pushing the limits of their F50 during practice. They almost cracked the 50-knot (57.5 mph) mark and then survived a near-capsize.
"It's a mix of being scared, adrenaline and being excited," Slingsby said. "When you get these boats on a track with five other boats, it's pretty incredible."
The Aussies sit atop the leaderboard, followed by Japan, Britain, China France and the United States.
During practice races on Tuesday, wild conditions whipped the Aussies into a “death angle,” a term the crew coined for the boat being at a 90-degree angle to the wind. The boat nearly capsized before splashing down onto its hulls.
"It was pretty scary, to be honest,” Slingsby said. “We’ve got to keep adapting to these San Francisco conditions or else it'll get the best of us, but that goes for all teams. Everyone had a bit of a day.”
The experienced crew from Down Under came out okay.
"We want to keep it clean if we get into any compromising situations, but when we sail within our capabilities, no one will touch us,” grinder Ky Hurst said.
The Chinese team, helmed by Phil Robertson (NZL) wasn’t as lucky. It took a massive nose dive and the wingsail buckled, causing the team to retire from practice.
Slingsby and U.S. skipper and helmsman Rome Kirby (USA) are back at the site of their thrilling comeback win with Oracle Team USA in 2013, when the American-based crew rallied from an 8-1 deficit to win eight straight races to stun Emirates Team New Zealand and retain the America’s Cup.
“It’s huge to be the home team,” Kirby said. “It’s exciting to be representing your country and I’m excited to get going.”
The Americans will be working hard to improve on their last-place finish in Sydney.
This regatta should have much steadier breeze than the one in Sydney.
SailGP will debut new flight control systems on the boat which will allow a "flight controller" on each crew to have push-button and joy-stick control over the foils, freeing up the helmsmen to concentrate more on driving.
Team Australia's Tom Slingsby (AUS) explains their near capsize during practice sailing on SF Bay earlier this week.