The Australia SailGP Team takes a heart-stopping win at Event 2: San Francisco SailGP.
The team started the day in second place behind rivals Japan SailGP Team, helmed by fellow Australian Nathan Outteridge. Damages to Australian's wing during the previous day may have kicked the team’s confidence down, but they were by no means out. Super tight racing between the event’s top leaders, with a treacherous crash landing into the finish in Race 4, saw Great Britain SailGP Team nearly throw Australia out of match race contention. Luckily Australia was able to dust off, win Race 5 and overtake Japan SailGP Team in the match race final, leaping back onto the top of the overall leaderboard for the second time in SailGP Season 1.
Yesterday proved trying for Australia SailGP Team. After sustaining some internal damages to their wing during Race 1, the team could not perform to the best of their capabilities.
“When the wing breaks, we’ve got such a short amount of time in-between races you can’t really effect a proper repair… Shore guys worked overnight to pull the control system apart and check all the other components and fix what was broken in there. We’ve gone through the data to see what actually happened, but now we’re good to go,” remarks wing trimmer Kyle Langford.
After a night's sleep, helmsman Tom Slingsby understood the position his team was in, yet he appeared level-headed, like the true competitor he is, stating, “We do reset. It's nice having the confidence; you get that feeling you just have to put together a decent race and you’ll win, whereas at the moment, it feels like we need to do a better race than normal to win which is not the position we want to be in. But today’s a new day and we’ve made some changes to the boat which we know are going to improve our speed and manoeuvering, so we’re going to be a lot better today.”
San Francisco really turned it on for both sailors and spectators alike offering a breezy 12-17 knot wind range for the athletes to contend with. Hitting the ground running, Race 4 saw four team’s, including Australia, biting the start early providing United States SailGP Team, helmed by Rome Kirby, a nice lead going into the first mark. The fleet of F50’s could not have been closer together, crisscrossing one another on multiple race legs. Australia sat just behind Great Britain until Japan sneakily came inside around the final mark. Australia absolutely pushed it out heading into the finish hoping to edge out Japan until a heart-stopping crash metres away from the finish line dropped the boat off the foils, drifting into the finish taking third.
“We had a really nasty crash going into the finish on Race 1. We went for a codenamed ‘eagle,’, which means drop both boards and fly like the sacred eagle to try and finish before the Japanese. But unfortunately, the boards sucked down more than we anticipated and we pretty much almost went into a pitchpole at about 40 knots to about 7. The boys on the front handles got a little banged up, but to their credit, they pulled through and toughened up for the next few races of the day. Happy that nothing broke and we were able to get a good rebound from that, “ says a relieved flight controller Jason Waterhouse.
Both grinders Ky Hurst and Sam Newton suffered minor injuries going into the finish after the crash. Ky Hurst’s face and ribs met the unforgiving F50, but even after seeing a bit of blood, the four-time Ironman champion pushed through pain.
Race 5 was a battle of the Commonwealth as tie points for Australia and Great Britain meant the Australians needed to beat the British if they wanted in on the final match race round. “In the second race of the day, our whole concentration was on the British so we sort of sacrificed our start to get them. In the end, both boats sort of sailed through the fleet, but keeping in mind our main goal was just to beat the British, and I’d say we sort of achieved that, haha,” laughed Slingsby. Both teams chose opposite sides of the course for a nailbiting race, but it was the Australians that gained ahead once the British took a penalty against the U.S. team coming around the last bottom mark. After the crucial Race 5 win, Slingsby is ecstatic but notes, “It’s going to be a tough final [against Japan]. It’s a real boat handling situation. Just gotta make sure we sail well,” when looking ahead.
The Japan SailGP Team didn’t start the day as the deeply talented squad intended due to internal wing issues delaying racing. This appeared to be just the start of a batch of tough luck for Australia’s top rival. Subsequent races saw more technical issues, yet the team was not ready to give up the fight going into the match race final. “From the start of that race, the first reach, then the first run, we kept looking for a metre or half a metre to get around them. In the end at the bottom mark, we were able to sail away. He tried to pull us at the end, but we had a little up our sleeves,” jokes Slingsby. It was Australia’s clean sailing and extension from Japan after mark 3 that clearly set the tone — Australia was not giving away San Francisco SailGP! Australia SailGP Team is now two points ahead in overall standings, and one step closer to the coveted SailGP's $1 million dollar purse prize.
Slingsby and Outteridge have gone tit-for-tat over the course of their near-30-year friendship, and San Francisco played out no differently. Both competitors openly shared insight keeping both teams on their toes. “I hate losing to him, he hates losing to me, but we push each other as well. We openly talk, we openly tell each other what we’re doing and how we can improve and hope both of our levels will advance,” said Slingsby.
Australia SailGP Team will be celebrating a victory tonight along with the rest of the members of SailGP on a successful second event. As Tom Slingsby pointed out, thousands of people making up the crowds of San Francisco couldn’t get enough of the hydrofoiling F50's, “At times during the last match race with Team Japan, we had issues on comms' because the roar of the crowd for us was so loud. It was pretty amazing."
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