Only way up for U.S. SailGP Team
Published on February 16th, 2019
In SailGP’s inaugural event, the six national teams met February 15-16 on Sydney Harbour in a proof of concept occassion. Can fast boats, skilled teams, broadcast tools, and a tight venue deliver an intriguing fan product?
While it is too early to judge SailGP on its merits, the early pecking order has formed and the American team has some climbing to do. Positioned fourth after day one, they stumbled on day two to finish last.
“It was definitely tough,” said Rome Kirby, U.S. SailGP helmsman. “In this fleet, if you make any mistakes you end up in the back. Obviously we are frustrated, but there is also plenty we did well and there is plenty we can take away from here. We just need to keep battling.”
While it was the first event for all the teams, the US team was both the youngest and lacked experience together in competition. When asked before the event whether their training as a unit could overcome their deficiencies, Kirby was hopeful but realistic.
“We don’t have any more time than anyone else right now,” he noted. “If anything, we might have slightly less time, but it is what it is, and it’s not worth dwelling on. Nothing is going to be perfect, so we’ve got to keep pushing forward and work toward a decent result.”
U.S. SailGP Coach Tom Burnham hopes that decent result will come at the next event when the team takes the learnings from Sydney and applies them in the more familiar territory of San Francisco, USA.
“So many firsts happened for this young team,” he said. “The SailGP format is an entirely new style of racing for these guys and we are up against an incredibly talented field.”
The other teams from Australia, China, France, Great Britain and Japan have a mix of athletes who have both raced together and spent considerable time in this class of boat. The top two finishers from Sydney were assembled from the Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing crews that competed in the past two America’s Cups.
While Kirby (29, Newport, RI) was with Oracle Team USA for those two Cups, his role now as skipper and helmsman is a significant step up. His team includes Taylor Canfield (30, USVI), Dan Morris (31, Edina, Minn.), Mac Agnese (24, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), Hans Henken (26, Coronado, Calif.), and Riley Gibbs (22, Long Beach, Calif.).
“As a team we have a lot to learn about the boat yet, and about how best to work together as a team,” Kirby said. “This is an incredibly tough boat to sail and we will take all the learnings from this event to improve together. The ingredients are all here.”
Next time for 2019 SailGP is San Francisco on May 4-5.
1. Australia, Tom Slingsby, 4-1-1-1-1-1, 48*
2. Japan, Nathan Outteridge, 1-2-2-2-3-0, 45*
3. Great Britain, Dylan Fletcher Scott, 3-4-4-3-5, 36
4. China, Phil Robertson, 2-6-6-6-2, 33
5. France, Billy Besson, 6-5-3-4-4, 33
6. United States, Rome Kirby, 5-3-5-5-6, 31
* Australia earned one point by beating Japan in the final match race. Japan earned zero points.
Day One Races:
Day Two Races:
Established in 2018 and headquartered in London and San Francisco, SailGP seeks to be an annual, global sports league featuring fan-centric, inshore racing in some of the iconic harbors around the globe and culminates with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race. Rival national teams from Australia, China, France, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States battle it out in identical wing-powered, foiling F50 catamarans, engineered to exceed 50 knots.
Sydney, Australia (February 15-16)
San Francisco, USA (May 4-5)
New York, USA (June 21-22)
Cowes, UK (August 10-11)
Marseille, France (September 20-22)
Source: US SailGP