After an inaugural Sydney event where Mother Nature made the SailGP 50 foot foiling cats look like they had a V8 running on just 4 cylinders, as the minutes ticked down to the San Francisco venue the forecast – and it had to be said some of the speeds and ‘excitements’ of the week running up to the event gave a clue to a potentially more action packed couple of days racing than enjoyed down under.
In addition many were waiting to see if the Australians domination on Sydney Harbour was boat handling skills and training time or perhaps a healthy helping of local knowledge.
For those of us watching from Aisa, with two teams from our region (China and Japan) it meant setting the alarm for an early rise as racing started much earlier than normal.
Indeed for Asian sailing fans the practice day gave us hope with Team Japan winning all three of the practice races.
On the Saturday Team Japan extended their winning streak to 6 races, quite remarkable wit Australia never far behind although the British die seem the most improved getting into the mix. For the other three teams there wasn’t much change. Team USA got in there at times but crossed the line in their usual position with the other bottom half finishers France and China.
A closer look at some of the figures, and for the number crunching fans the top three boats finished (for example) race 4 with between 93% and 97% foiling while Team China had the much lower figure of 82%, clearly flight control(ler) issues on that boat.
The event has to be applauded for the lack of “hang around” time between races with hardly enough time to make a cup of tea. I know, I did it – and it was a rush.
Race 5 saw a moment of glory for USA as they held a clear lead for the first two legs but gradually the ‘normal’ order began to be re-established as the American boat was sucked back int the mix. Great Britain started last with Australia 2nd last but of course that second spot in the match race final was perhaps the bigger picture there with both these team gradually working their way up through the fleet – then the feed froze so I am not sure how Australia got their big jump into the lead which they held until the finish. USA held onto 2nd and looked sure of the place until close to the end of the windward leg. Great Britain managed to get by to take the slot.
Perhaps the best race yet for the American Team, however it would be easy to say that Japan’s earlier form is dissipating but the racing is so close that low error rate is perhaps even more important that boat speed. In Fact in the race that Great Britain won they did not hold the top foiling percentage showing there is more to this racing then simple foiling. The way the positions amongst the top 4 changed was awesome, more lead changes in 1 race than a whole America’s Cup Summer.
And so to the final, which I personally think is a mistake as for 2/3 of the sets of team fans the event is a 5 race event, not a 6 race event and with the teams representing the world’s two largest economies yet to appear in a final that is surely a big potential loss.
For the final itself Slingsby didn’t let Nathan Outtridge get close and convincingly stood with his team on with winners podium at the end of the day. 2 for 2 but at the top the gap does seem to be closing slightly with the USA and, in particular, Great Britain duking it out at the front. However for France and China it is clear there is more work needed as these two teams, that don’t lack for talent, appear to slower at getting to grips with these phenomenal speed machines.
If Sydney brought out the naysayers that said these boats didn’t live up to the hype then San Francisco with an unofficial speed in practice of 52 knots, close lead changing racing and lead boats flying for 95%+ of a race might not silence them altogether but certainly will give them pause for thought.
So now the easiest logistics of the whole series. THE boats will get dismantled, loaded on trucks and driven to New York where the whole Circus re-convenes in a little over 6 weeks time.
See you in the Big Apple