Capsizes, Speed Records, and Big Wings
Published on August 18th, 2021
Critical to SailGP is for racing to occur, for when you are seeking to be an entertainment sport, fans expect the show to go on. But nobody controls the wind, so revisions to their F50 catamaran wings has been the focus.
When the global sports league got underway in 2019, the wings were leftovers from the 2017 America’s Cup, so each wing for each team was a bit different. Not ideal, so the plan for second season was to build identical wings that could transform into three sizes based on the wind strength.
The cancellation of the 2020 season due to the pandemic gave the league additional time, but still the early events in 2021 only had the small (18m; 20-30 knots) and medium (24m; 4-24 knots) size wings. With light winds prevailing through the first three events, the big 29m wing was needed.
As SailGP’s eight international teams ready themselves for the fourth event of Season 2 in Denmark on August 20-21, the large wing finally took to the water for the first time on August 16 for initial testing with United States Driver Jimmy Spithill.
“We went out and had 10-12 knots of wind, so we got to see [the wing] in the upper end of what we think would be its wind range,” said Spithill. “The big test we still need to perform is the real light-air conditions we haven’t yet had during testing, and to line up the standard 24m wing.”
So far stronger winds have prevailed for training, which led to a capsize by the Danish team in gusts of 27 knots and the British team breaking the SailGP speed record with a top speed of 53.1 knots on the Aarhus waters.
However, a downward trend for the wind is in the works for the inaugural ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix, and with the largest wing not yet ready for primetime, it will be a another test for the original 24m wing to power the teams.
SailGP Season Championship (after 3 events)
1. Australia, 22 pts
2. Great Britain, 22 pts
3. France, 21 pts
4. United States, 19 pts
5. Japan, 19 pts
6. Spain, 19 pts
7. Denmark, 17 pts
8. New Zealand, 17 pts
Format for SailGP events:
• Teams compete in identical F50 catamarans.
• Each event runs across two days.
• There are three races on each day, totaling six races at each event.
• The opening five fleet races involve every team.
• The final match race pits the three highest ranking teams against each other to be crowned event champion.
• The season ends with the Grand Final, which includes the Championship Final Race – a winner-takes-all match race for the $1m prize.
SailGP Season 2 Schedule*
April 24-25, 2021 – Bermuda Grand Prix
June 5-6, 2021 – Italy Grand Prix – Taranto
July 17-18, 2021 – Great Britain Grand Prix – Plymouth
August 20-21, 2021 – ROCKWOOL Denmark Grand Prix – Aarhus
September 11-12, 2021 – France Grand Prix – Saint-Tropez
October 9-10, 2021 – Spain Grand Prix – Andalusia
December 17-18, 2021 – Australia Grand Prix – Sydney
January 29-30, 2022 – New Zealand Grand Prix – Christchurch (CANCELLED)
March 26-27, 2022 – United States Grand Prix – San Francisco (Season 2 Grand Final)
*Subject to change
2021-22 Teams, Helm
Australia, Tom Slingsby
Denmark, Nicolai Sehested
France, Billy Besson
Great Britain, Ben Ainslie (alternate – Paul Goodison)
Japan, Nathan Outteridge
New Zealand, Peter Burling (alternate – Arnaud Psarofaghis)
Spain, Jordi Xammar (alternate – Phil Robertson)
United States, Jimmy Spithill
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.