No escape from drama for US Team
Published on August 25th, 2021
After four events, the United States SailGP Team needs an exorcism. It’s been one thing or another during the SailGP second season, with skipper Jimmy Spithill explaining how his team overcame the latest setback to salvage fourth place on August 20-21 in Aarhus, Denmark.
The above photo, taken during practice prior to ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix, is one of the craziest I’ve seen in a long time.
If you look closely, you can see me hanging off the wheel with both hands… and my mate Paul Campbell-James mid-somersault, braced for impact.
When you’re racing at almost 100kph (54 knots) on these fully-loaded SailGP F50 boats, the G-forces on the turn are insane – hitting as much as 3Gs, about the same as astronauts experience during a rocket launch.
It’s a bit like being on a rollercoaster. You’re wrestling a 2.4-tonne boat and have to give everything, just to hang on.
As we came into that turn in Aarhus, in a lot of wind, with both foil and rudders at the limit, it just happened in the blink of an eye. In a split second, you’re trying to stop the boat from capsizing… and also trying to save yourself.
I was the lucky one as I was already holding the wheel, but CJ wasn’t so fortunate, and in the impact, he snapped his fibula.
Believe it or not, we still finished the race. When we crossed the line, CJ said, “Sorry mate, I need to go to the medic boat,” and before we knew it, he was in hospital getting his leg cast.
What a freaking animal. I’ve known CJ a long time, and would take this guy into battle any day of the week. It says a lot about the team we’re building.
CJ is a great sailor and an important guy for us, so losing him so close to the race weekend was a big blow. We just can’t seem to catch a break right now, but here we still are, after everything that’s happened so far this season – crashes, hitting objects, snapping rudders, and now we add broken bones to the list. This is one crazy sport.
We were lucky to get a great replacement at the 11th hour, in Jason Saunders. He did a great job this weekend, in a very challenging situation. Jase is a top sailor stepping into one of the most critical positions on the boat, and got stronger every race.
With totally random conditions, we were trying to keep our head above water out there, and to be honest, we’re quite happy to walk away having salvaged a fourth place in Aarhus.
We can’t seem to escape the drama this season, but to still be posting points on the board is a real sign of strength, and at some point, things will turn.
When things are going well, when you’re winning, there are no personality conflicts, no clashes. It’s when you’re going through tough times that you really see the make-up of the team, and man, have we seen that.
The level of competition in SailGP is off the charts. We’ve now seen every team win races this season, and there are no excuses. We’ve all got the same equipment, and every team has what it takes to win in SailGP.
And there’s a bit of fire on the water too. The pressure is on, and I think it shows just what winning SailGP means. When you’re racing for a million bucks, you get pretty fired up.
You especially see that on the start line. In SailGP, the start is a bit like a Motocross start, except we don’t get given a gate. We’re all accelerating as fast as we can to that first corner, but it’s like all the riders are free to go where they like, they just have to be behind the gun when it goes off.
It’s really chaotic. Teams are pushing the limits more and more for an advantage, and we’ve seen some crashes and near-misses. It’s a very important part of the race, as if you get off the line well, generally you’ll have a good race.
Next up is St Tropez, where I’ve seen light conditions but also big waves and big winds. We’ll be ready to roll with the punches – and hopefully we’ll land a few, too.
ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix Final Results
3. Great Britain
4. United States
5. New Zealand
SailGP Season Championship (after 4 events)
1. Australia, 32 pts
2. Great Britain, 30 pts
3. Japan, 28 pts
4. United States, 26 pts
5. France, 24 pts
6. New Zealand, 23 pts
7. Spain, 23 pts
8. Denmark, 22 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.