Consistency key for US SailGP Team
Published on June 14th, 2022
After their third place overall finish in the second season of SailGP, the US SailGP Team believes they needed to step back to step forward. Their fifth place finish in the first event of Season 3 is indicative of this rebuild, and they are looking to make further progress when the nine teams line up again for the next event on June 18-19 in Chicago, IL.
But to do so, it will require achieving consistent race starts according to new flight controller Hans Henken. “It’s the part of the race that no-one is really bound to any set play – the rest of the racecourse is quite mechanical in lots of ways.”
Henken, who will return to the role of flight controller after his debut at the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix last month, likened a SailGP fleet race to “a chess game,” which “all plays out and finishes based on how well you’re able to make the first move.”
In his role, this means understanding “when the boat needs to be foiling, how soon to get foiling, and keeping at the right height throughout the start. To be really in sync in the final minute of the pre-start and to be in the perfect spot in one of the perfect positions at mark one – that’s the holy grail that all SailGP teams are looking for.”
Consistency across the board is key for the US team, as the packed Season 3 schedule includes more races than ever, making consistency across the whole season key for those aiming to make the podium of the Grand Final in 2023.
For Henken personally this means becoming “more consistent at flying the boat at a higher ride height” in Chicago.
“It’s no secret that the best teams out there – Australia and Great Britain – fly the boats higher and more consistently than the other teams,” he said. “The higher you fly the boat, the faster the boat goes.”
Henken will be concentrating on reaching the right ride height on the straight downwind and reaches and ensuring maneuvers are as smooth as possible. As he is playing catch-up in his role, he found himself staying up late in Bermuda to study the performances of Australia flight controller Jason Waterhouse and Great Britain’s Luke Parkinson.
“They’re doing it incredibly well and it’s a matter of copying the best in the world, getting really good and then starting to push hard on the advancement,” he said.
Meanwhile Henken shrugged off the suggestion that the US team will be feeling more pressure to perform at next weekend’s race in Chicago, arguing instead that the support of a home crowd will boost the team’s confidence.
“I see being in Chicago as being more comfortable because you’re in a place that you know really well. It’s not as if we’re half way around the world in Dubai having never been there before,” he said, noting how being familiar with the city and knowing “where the best food is and where you’re sleeping” are factors that “all play a part in performance.
“If you’re feeling really comfortable with where you’re at, that definitely leads to more confidence. In any sport that you do, the more confidence you have, the more you can perform at your highest level.”
1. Australia, 4-5-3-4-1 (1)
2. Great Britain, 1-8-1-5-4 (2)
3. Canada, 2-1-5-7-5 (3)
4. Denmark, 5-9-4-3-3
5. United States, 3-7-7-6-2
6. New Zealand, 7-3-8-1-7
7. Spain, 6-4-9-2-9
8. France, 9-2-2-9-8
9. Switzerland, 8-6-6-8-6
*The Japan SailGP Team will sit out the first events of the season due to a series of external factors resulting in only nine F50s being available for the start of Season 3.
2022-23 SailGP Season 3 Schedule*
May 14-15, 2022 – Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess
June 18-19, 2022 – United States Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier
July 30-31, 2022 – Great Britain Sail Grand Prix | Plymouth
August 18-19, 2022 – ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix | Copenhagen
September 9-10, 2022 – France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
September 23-24, 2022 – Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía – Cádiz
November 11-12, 2022 – Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas
January 14-15, 2023 – Singapore Sail Grand Prix
March 17-18, 2023 – New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch
May 6-7, 2023 – United States Sail Grand Prix | San Francisco (Season 3 Grand Final)
*One further event is expected to be announced to complete SailGP Season 3.
2022-23 Teams, Helm
Australia, Tom Slingsby
Canada, Phil Robertson
Denmark, Nicolai Sehested
France, Quentin Delapierre
Great Britain, Ben Ainslie
Japan, Nathan Outteridge
New Zealand, Peter Burling
Spain, Jordi Xammar
Switzerland, Sébastien Schneiter
United States, Jimmy Spithill
Format for 2022-23 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 and earn the largest share of the $300,000 prize money to be split among the top three teams.
• The season ends with the Grand Final, which includes the Championship Final Race – a winner-takes-all match race for the $1m prize.
For competition documents, click here.
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 for event prize money as the season culminates with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race.