US SailGP Team shakes up squad for 2020
Published on January 30th, 2020
The United States SailGP Team kicked off its 2020 SailGP campaign by unveiling the all-American, eight-man squad who will make their debut in less than one month at Sydney SailGP, February 28-29.
The 2020 U.S. SailGP Team’s roster of America’s Cup athletes, World Match Racing Champions, and Tokyo 2020 Olympic hopefuls that includes Rome Kirby, Taylor Canfield, Riley Gibbs and Hans Henken, is now bolstered by the addition of Peter Kinney, Scott Ewing, Ben Bardwell, and Victor Diaz de Leon, who were recruited from across the country over the past four months.
The U.S. SailGP Team also announced the addition of America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veteran Kimo Worthington as General Manager for the growing team.
“We spent the off-season searching for the strongest and most passionate American athletes who would fit in well with our team and push our performance to a new level,” said U.S. SailGP Team CEO and Helmsman Rome Kirby.
“Our goal is to build a strong foundation of leadership, trust, and mutual respect for long-term success. Just like the 1980 ‘Miracle’ USA Olympic Hockey Team, our recruiting was not about finding ‘all-stars,’ but finding fresh and hungry athletes whose personalities play in the system we’ve created for Season 2 success.”
Introducing the All-American U.S. SailGP Team:
Rome Kirby (30, Newport, R.I.) returns as helmsman and CEO, focused on redemption for Season 2. “As our team and the league continues to grow, I feel like we are well positioned for success both on and off the water. We’ve made important additions that are already paying dividends and Season 2 can’t begin soon enough,” he said.
Wing Trimmer Riley Gibbs (24, Long Beach, Calif.) is back in the starting lineup having spent the majority of his off-season gaining valuable foiling time in his Tokyo 2020 pursuits as skipper of the Nacra 17. He and Nacra 17 teammate Anna Weis have been top performers during the Olympic qualification process, earning gold in the Pan American Games and securing their country the Nacra 17 Olympic qualification slot. Gibbs and Weis are top contenders to be selected for the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team to compete in Tokyo this summer.
In the flight controller slot, former match racing world champion Taylor Canfield (30, U.S. Virgin Islands) returns for Season 2. It’s been a productive off-season for Canfield, who served as tactician on board the winning M32 catamaran at November’s M32 World Championship in Lake Garda, in addition to training on the Moth.
The team’s “rocket scientist” Hans Henken (26, Coronado, Calif.) returns to the U.S. SailGP Team’s in the grinder position. Henken, who graduated from Stanford with aero and astronautical engineering degrees, campaigned his 49er in the off-season competing with teammate Judge Ryan at the 2019 49er World Championships in Auckland.
A former collegiate football player, Peter Kinney (29, Newport Beach, Calif.), joins the U.S. SailGP Team as a grinder. He’s been actively racing on the popular M32 catamaran and Melges 32 circuits, in addition to competing in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. He and his team earned a Melges 32 world championship in 2016, in addition to taking home two distance racing titles on board Rio 100, setting the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta record, and Pacific Cup, both in 2016.
Also new to the lineup is Ben Bardwell (41, Brownsville, Vt.), an experienced offshore and big boat sailor who trained with the U.S. SailGP Team late last season and was immediately hooked on the supercharged F50. The strength, stamina and athleticism that he’s known for throughout the Maxi, TP52 and match racing circuits will serve him well in his position as grinder.
The youngest member of the U.S. SailGP Team at age 23, Scott Ewing (Miami, Fla.) joins the squad and is no stranger to foiling and going fast. Ewing has raced in the Extreme Sailing Series, Moths, Flying Phantoms, and competed with Next Generation USA in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in 2017; and in 2016, he also brought home the 49er national championship.
Finally, Victor Diaz de Leon (28, Miami, Fla.) rounds out the U.S. SailGP Team as reserve
wing trimmer/flight controller and will play an integral role in analyzing the team’s performance while growing the depth of experience in the highly technical wing control systems. Diaz de Leon, regarded as one of the best Moth sailors in America, brings to the team significant foiling experience.
Kirby hopes that the U.S. SailGP Team serves as an inspiration for young American sailors. “There are incredibly talented athletes developing in the U.S. pipeline and our goal is that they see our team, recognize there is a pathway, and aspire to join us.”
Kimo Worthington as General Manager
One of the few Americans to have won both the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race, Kimo Worthington joins the team in Season 2 as General Manager, bringing experience from 10 professional sailing campaigns as both an athlete and GM. Kirby knows his management style well, having competed in the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race with Puma Ocean Racing, managed by Worthington.
“The speed at which this team has grown has been really exciting,” said Kirby. “I knew early on this off-season that we could benefit from the experience Kimo brings and asked him to join us for Season 2.”
In addition to managing both Puma Ocean Racing campaigns, Worthington also managed 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race competitor, Pirates of the Caribbean for Paul Cayard, and previously won the 1997-98 Whitbread Around the World Race as a crewmember aboard the winning EF Language Team. Add to this his work at North Sails, plus six America’s Cup campaigns, including a win on America3 in 1992, and the depth of experience he brings to the young American squad is immense.
Kimo will oversee the team’s off-water management and commercial interests in Season 2 as the team grows its sponsorship, logistics, performance, and marketing platforms, complimenting the team’s on-water goals.
“Like every program in my career, I remove obstacles so each team member can do what they need to do to be successful,” said Worthington. “SailGP and the team are growing quickly and as general manager, I’ll keep the team running efficiently so the athletes can focus on winning races.”
Looking Ahead to Season 2
Kirby recalls the frustration he and the team felt after a rollercoaster Season 1. “Going into Marseille in 3rd place, and then to end the season the way we did; it was incredibly tough,” he said. “But we are all fighters and immediately our focus turned to Season 2 success.”
The team then jumpstarted its rebuilding process with an intensive leadership course with The McChrystal Group, led by General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal, in November followed by a period of intense fitness testing and training camps coupled with the majority of the team sailing Moths as much as possible.
At the same time, the team’s on-water performance has been supported by ongoing data analysis gathered from thousands of data points on the F50 during Season 1 enabled by the Oracle Cloud, which have contributed to a new playbook for Season 2.
The U.S. SailGP Team now turns its attention to Sydney for the Season 2 debut February 28-29, 2020. The team will benefit from 10 additional days of training on the F50 granted to the U.S. team by the league before they line up against the six other SailGP teams: Australia, Japan, Great Britain, France, Spain and Denmark in the quest for the $1 million prize.
Australia, Tom Slingsby
Denmark, Nicolai Sehested
France, Billy Besson
Great Britain, Ben Ainslie
Japan, Nathan Outteridge
Spain, Jordi Xammar/ Phil Robertson
United States, Rome Kirby
Sydney, Australia (February 28-29)
San Francisco, USA (May 2-3)
New York, USA (June 12-13)
Cowes, UK (August 14-15)
* Additional dates by February 2020
Established in 2018, SailGP seeks to be an annual, global sports league featuring fan-centric inshore racing in some of the iconic harbors around the globe. Rival national teams compete in identical F50 catamarans with the season culminating with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race.
Season 1 – 2019 Schedule
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)
SailGP Season 1 Overall Leaderboard
1. Australia, Tom Slingsby, 229
2. Japan, Nathan Outteridge, 223
3. China, Phil Robertson, 171
4. Great Britain, Dylan Fletcher, 169
5. France, Billy Besson, 164
6. United States, Rome Kirby, 163
Note: Total points based on SailGP scoring.