SailGP is a season of grands prix consisting of high performance sailing races around the world. The first one of this season was this weekend in Bermuda which has captivated this outpost all week long after last year’s skinnied down pandemic version.
Season 3 of the 10-race series boasts an expanded roster of teams, with Switzerland and Canada joining Australia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, and the United States. The competing teams feature the sport’s best athletes including Olympic gold medalists and world champions, all racing together at the same time in identical boats, meaning the results rely on crews and not engineering.
The racing itself took place towards the western end of the island on the stunning glass looking surface of the Great Sound. Each boat identical costing $4m relying of electronics and hydraulics raced 5 qualifying rounds, or fleet races as they are called, with the top three ranked based on points making it to today’s final.
I was lucky enough to be invited out on a boat to watch at close quarters (grainy photo top left) on Saturday although even the most ardent sailor will have trouble explaining to you what the hell is going on as these F50 Catamarans raced at speeds in excess of 100 kph at gravity defying angles up high on their foils in all manner of directions to grab wind advantages.
Ben Ainslie led GB to two wins on the opening day, the final win an intense battle over the line with France, but it was the Canadian newcomers who were the most consistent of the teams as they posted a 2-1-5 record in the three races to end day one top of the rankings. GB were 2nd and Australia 3rd.
Today I watched the finals from the couch where the TV commentary team included my mate Nick Jones. There is nothing quite like being at a live sports events but some are simply much more suitable for TV, and I’m thinking golf and Formula 1 here.
Add sailing to that list, as every detail was broken down in layman’s language and the superimposed graphics on the water make everything a lot more understandable. I did have to buy my own beers but I didn’t get sunburnt from the comfort of my living room.
Australia ended the 5th fleet race today on top of the points table, with GB 2nd and Canada 3rd, so they competed for the final and it was Tom Slingsby’s Australian crew that came home winners.
Bermuda again pulled off a big televised sports event, the island always shows immaculately on television, and it was great to see the streets heaving with visitors, I do hope this will encourage more live sporting events on the island.
The next round of SailGP is in June on Lake Michigan in Chicago, another beautiful water setting close to my heart.