The first ever SailGP was witnessed by more than 20,000 people who took to the water on the spectacular Sydney Harbor, providing the perfect amphitheater for the season kick off.
Two intense days of racing saw six national teams do battle in the world’s most technologically advanced catamarans, competing to get the first points on the leaderboard and closer to the $1 million Season 1 prize.
In front of cheering crowds, the green and gold F50 race boat of the Australia SailGP Team, helmed by local hero Tom Slingsby, won the final race of the day to earn the title in the opening event over Japan.
The Olympic gold medalist and his crew of flight controller and tactician Jason Waterhouse, wing trimmer Kyle Langford, grinders Sam Newton and Ky Hurst, and Kinley Fowler gave a masterclass to the rest of the fleet.
Though it was pre-race favorite Nathan Outteridge and his Japanese team who were leading going into the final day and looked set to upset the home crowd, Slingsby and his team were quick off the block on the second day, winning the first race and shortly following it up with another race win.
A second and a third for Outteridge’s Japan team guaranteed their place in the final match race and a chance to go head to head against the home team and line up against a close friend and fierce rival. The Australian team’s practice over the last few weeks paid off, and they lead the Japanese off the start and never looked back.
“We don’t take losing lightly and that first race of the event really shot us into gear,” Slingsby said. “I couldn’t be happier with how today went. I hold my team to a high standard and they really over delivered.
“I don’t know which day had more spectators but it looked unbelievable again today, amazing the turnout for the first event of its kind in Sydney.”
Japan finished the first event with 45 points, three behind the Australians.
“Compared to the Australians, we’ve only done five days as a sailing team and I think that was what showed against them. But the fact we were even racing was incredible and to make the match race was just awesome. I am really proud of the whole team and what we have achieved in such a short time,” said Outteridge.
Third overall on the leaderboard with 36 points is Great Britain skippered by Dylan Fletcher. The British team under the command of Olympian Chris Draper was quick off the start and showed moments of promise but admitted they would be studying the data to ensure they were faster and more polished for San Francisco.
SailGP CEO Russell Coutts concluded, “A huge congratulations to Tom, Nathan and their teams. It has been a fantastic event and I want to say thank you to Sydney for supporting the event. It has been a great venue to launch SailGP.”
Next stop for SailGP is San Francisco, May 4-5, 2019, when the young guns of the United States Team will be hoping to emulate Slingsby’s success and score a victory on home waters.
In SailGP’s inaugural event, the talented young American team battled hard against the best sailors in the world as they raced in Sydney Harbor, and is bringing home valuable learnings to prepare for their American debut in two months in San Francisco.
“This was our first regatta as a team,” said Rome Kirby, U.S. SailGP helmsman. “It was definitely tough. In this fleet, if you make any mistakes you end up in the back. Obviously, we are frustrated, but there is also plenty we did well and there is plenty we can take away from here. We just need to keep battling.”
Throughout the weekend’s races, Kirby and the team had many positive moments that demonstrated the potential this team has to quickly improve. “Many times, we were right in the mix, and it easily could have been a different outcome,” he said.
U.S. SailGP Coach Tom Burnham is already looking toward how the team will take the learnings from Sydney and apply them to San Francisco and beyond.
“This weekend, so many firsts happened for this young team,” he said. “The SailGP format is an entirely new style of racing for these guys and we are up against an incredibly talented field. Now, we have a gauge to work from and build upon.”
The United States SailGP Team is the youngest squad in the new professional sailing championship. The other teams from Australia, China, France, Great Britain and Japan have a mix of athletes who have both raced together and spent considerable time in this class of boat.
“As a team we have a lot to learn about the boat yet, and about how best to work together as a team,” Kirby said. “This is an incredibly tough boat to sail and we will take all the learnings from this event to improve together. The ingredients are all here.”
The Sydney SailGP is the first installment of a new nation-vs.-nation professional sailing championship that competes around the world in turbocharged 50-foot foiling catamarans capable of reaching speeds in excess of 60 mph.
Overall Leaderboard Sydney
1st // Australia // 48pts
2nd // Japan // 45pts
3rd // Great Britain // 36pts
4th // China // 33pts
5th // France // 33pts
6th // United States // 31pts