Japan celebrates win at France SailGP

Published on September 12th, 2021

Saint-Tropez, France (September 12, 2021) – The final day of racing of the France Sail Grand Prix saw the eight nation fleet equipped with the newly-revealed 29 meter wingsail for light-wind conditions that finalized the fifth event of the 2021-22 SailGP season.

The weaker winds have been a theme in season two and once again Nathan Outteridge and the Japan SailGP Team have proven most adept, making the most of the larger wing to drive the team to its second win of the season.

Outteridge once again lived up to his nickname as the ‘wind whisperer’, mastering the conditions and putting in an elite display exactly when it mattered. Japan won the three-boat final podium race, beating out Jimmy Spithill’s U.S. team in second, followed by Spain in third driven by Phil Robertson.

“It was pretty tricky out there,” admitted Outteridge. “Jimmy [Spithill] did a great job at the start of that last race but once again we managed to sneak past him. Last time in Taranto it was bad luck for Jimmy whereas with the win this time, that top mark decision was either left or right. It was still quite stressful from then until the finish because you never knew what was going to come.

“I think we have done a little bit more training with these 29 meter wings [than the other teams] but not myself personally, I had maybe an hour in Aarhus after that event. Chris [Draper] had done three days before that so we knew what we were in for in terms of it being bigger and heavier. Yes you can generate more power but getting foiling wasn’t really any easier.”

Previously, the options were either the 18m (20-30 knots) or 24m (4-24 knots) size wings, but too often in the lighter winds the F50s were stuck to the water and needed help to get foiling. Yesterday the solution was to sail with three crew instead of five, but today it was full crew and the 29m wing.

For Japan, the result propels the team to the top of the leaderboard, followed by USA with both overtaking Tom Slingsby’s Australia team.

“We’ve had a bit of an up and down season so far but that’s two podium finishes for us now and a couple of points lead overall,” said Outteridge. “We really want to finish off the European season in a strong position so I guess the goal again is to be in the top three at the next event as it gives us a good chance to go home and get ready for the remainder of the season.”

The U.S. appeared to be the favorites heading into the three-boat podium race, topping the rankings during the qualifying races, however, Japan’s dominating performance in the winner-takes-all clash forced Spithill’s team into a solid second place finish.

“It was a great race and a great event for our team,” shared Spithill. “It was dynamic, lots of minefields on the racecourse and we have to give credit to Japan for sailing a good race.

“I think in those conditions you know you’ve got to sail with the wind you’ve got. You need a few things to go your way, but again overall, I think Japan is sailing well in those sorts of conditions compared to the fleet.

“It seems to be if it gets light and shifty, up and down, they seem to have a little edge on the fleet, so you have to give them credit.

“Of all of the teams, Chris Draper [Japan wing trimmer] has spent the most time on the 29 meter wing but I don’t believe that was the reason for Japan’s win today, I believe they just sailed better at the end.

“Overall, as a team, I was very impressed with our guys, especially with changes in the roster and CJ [Paul Campbell-James] back after injury so to walk away with a second is a good result.

“We continue our climb up the leaderboard. This is our first event where we did not have an incident on the water involving someone breaking a bone, hitting an object, or sinking and we’ve still got some time. We’ve got another couple of events so we’ve just got to keep chipping away and putting the results on the board and we will be in the running for the million bucks.”

Sliding up the event leaderboard, Phil Robertson’s Spanish team earned its place in the final podium race in Saint-Tropez, despite having its boat damaged by the British in the fifth race. Spain remained unfazed in its hunt for a trip to the podium, and a penalty for Ben Ainslie’s team would ensue.

“At the start of race five we were in quite a strong position and then Ben [Ainslie] thought there was a bit more of a gap than there was,” Robertson explained. “He came in and wiped us out, putting a massive hole in the back of our boat. It was a bit of a shame and a bit concerning and not ideal. It didn’t help us out and it probably didn’t help him out either.

“It doesn’t make it easy when you get a big hole in your boat, you’ve got to repair it and make sure it’s structurally okay to get racing again so it wasn’t the best preparation for the final. We finished third but we lost the finals, so we’re not super stoked with how it went. We didn’t sail superbly but it was a tough racecourse.”

With just shy of a month-to-go, Robertson’s team is looking forward to its home event on October 9-10 in Cádiz-Andalusia, Spain.

“One of the big things this weekend was to try and build some momentum in the lead-up to our home event in Cádiz and make sure we can carry on and build from this,” added Robertson. “I think we’ve done that, I think we put down a solid performance and the team has got a nice little rhythm, so come Cádiz we are going to be pushing pretty hard to be on that top step of the podium.”

Apologetic for the aggressive maneuver at the startline for Race 5, the penalty to Ainslie’s team would cost them prime race positioning, and ultimately a shot at the podium race.

“We had a gap and went for it but unfortunately it closed up right at the last moment between Spain and Denmark and we couldn’t quite feed the boat through,” explained Ainslie. “We had a collision with Spain and rightly got the penalty for that. That cost us the race and the shot at getting at the top three.

“That said, I think we’ve learned a lot from this event, sailing the boat in these conditions and using the new 29 meter wing, which was a great success. Whilst we are frustrated about that final race there are many positives to take away going into Cádiz with the championship getting tighter and tighter at the top. It’s very close on the overall leaderboard which is super exciting.”

New Zealand had looked set to qualify for the final following a string of impressive results. A last place finish in the fifth race saw the team miss out on the winner-takes-all podium final by just a single point – placing Peter Burling’s Kiwis in fourth.

Disappointment for Sehested’s team when Denmark suffered a snapped jib sail that likely cost them a place in the final, despite their impressive ability to finish the first race, and win the second. The Danish end the weekend in a respectable fifth position.

Great Britain ranked sixth, failing to capitalize on its win in the opening race of the event, and were penalized four points for making contact with Spain which summed up Ben Ainslie’s disappointing weekend saw them drop from second on the overall leaderboard to fourth.

Unable to gain enough momentum for a win after its performance on Saturday, Billy Besson’s French team finished seventh, while surprisingly – after two back-to-back event wins and looking for a hat-trick – Tom Slingsby’s Aussie team took the bottom spot.

Final Results
1. Japan
2. United States
3. Spain
4. New Zealand
5. Denmark
6. Great Britain
7. France
8. Australia

The France Sail Grand Prix Saint-Tropez will air live on September 11-12 at 7:30am EDT on SailGP’s YouTube channel and the SailGP APP. Delayed full broadcast coverage of both days will air September 12 on CBS Sports at 5:30pm EDT (Race Day 1) and 10:00pm EDT (Race Day 2).

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SailGP Season Championship (after 5 events)
1. Japan, 37 pts
2. United States, 35 pts
3. Australia, 35 pts
4. Great Britain, 34 pts
5. Spain, 31 pts
6. New Zealand, 30 pts
7. Denmark, 28 pts
8. France, 27 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.

Source: SailGP

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