Season 2 has been the biggest and best SailGP season yet, and we are finally closing in on the championship-deciding Grand Final, which will take place in San Francisco this weekend.
There has been plenty of thrilling and adrenaline-fueled action to reach this stage of the season, with seven events across three continents fuelling the drama and suspense heading into the Grand Final.
The battle for the SailGP Championship began nearly 11 months ago, when Season 2 kicked off on Bermuda’s iconic Great Sound. For the first time ever, eight F50s took part in racing – with the fleet soon to expand to ten teams for Season 3 – with Sir Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain team claiming the maiden event win of the campaign.
The Brits also broke the SailGP racing speed record in Bermuda’s windy conditions – hitting 92.6 km/h (57.5 mph) as they crossed the finish line in the opening race – to prove Season 2 was going to be faster, scarier and far more thrilling than our inaugural campaign in 2019.
And this was once again shown during the second event of the season, when Japan won the Italy Sail Grand Prix in Taranto following a huge incident in the three-team Final. It was a fiercely tight battle between Japan, Spain and the United States to claim the victory, until Jimmy Spithill’s USA team suffered an underwater collision which caused serious rudder damage to their F50 and opened the door for Japan to win.
This was a particularly sore moment for Spithill and his crew as it was Japan who collided with the US F50 in Bermuda to cause serious damage to both boats – resulting in the States ending that event in last place.
A trip to Great Britain followed the Taranto event, continuing the European leg of Season 2. During a glorious weekend in Plymouth, current league leaders Australia claimed their first event win of the campaign, beating France and the US in the Final.
This event will go down in SailGP history for also featuring the competition’s first ever Black Flag, shown to the Spanish team on Race Day 1. A risky starting maneuver by Phil Robertson – who was building a reputation for pushing the boundaries with his starts – did not pay off in race 3, with the Black Flag shown resulting in Spain’s instant disqualification from that race. They were allowed to resume competing on Race Day 2, but that Black Flag was a key contributor to Spain’s last place finish in Britain’s Ocean City.
Aarhus was next up for the SailGP fleet, with the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix taking place on August 20-21. And it was another successful event for the Aussies, who claimed the victory despite not winning a single Fleet Race across the entire weekend! Nonetheless, Tom Slingsby’s team put in their best performance when it mattered most to beat Japan and Great Britain in a hugely dramatic final.
The Aussies enjoyed a commanding lead and kept themselves out of the trouble which was brewing behind them between Japan and the Brits, when Ainslie’s team were hit with a penalty which the skipper – overheard on the on-water comms system – slammed as a ‘ridiculous call’. A second penalty was soon awarded as the British team did not clear the first penalty quickly enough, and Ainslie’s fury was clear for all to see – and hear – once his team crossed the finish line in third place.
Japan’s runners-up finish in Aarhus was bettered at the following event in Saint-Tropez, with Nathan Outteridge’s team beating the United States and Spain in the Final in the south of France.
This event saw the debut in SailGP of the 29m wing – allowing our F50s to race at higher speeds in weaker wind conditions – and the ‘wind whisperer’ Outteridge proved his talent in these lighter conditions to re-establish Japan’s title credentials.
The five-event European leg of the campaign came to a close in early October, with Australia claiming victory in Cadiz, Spain to return to the top of the Championship leaderboard.
This event also made history as it marked the expansion of team crews to six individuals to incorporate our Women’s Pathway Program athletes. Nina Curtis became the first female to win a SailGP event alongside her Aussie teammates, with CJ Perez of the United States and Great Britain’s Hannah Mills rounding out the top three.
Following the end of the European leg of the campaign, there was a two month break before SailGP action resumed shortly before Christmas in Sydney. It was our third visit to this iconic city, and it was on familiar waters that the Aussie team booked their place in the upcoming Grand Final by winning their home event.
The US claimed the runners-up spot in Sydney to also qualify for the Grand Final, with Spain finishing third to remain in with a slight chance of making it to the three-team winner-takes-all Championship decider.
That final spot remains up for grabs, and it is in San Francisco that the qualifiers for the Grand Final will be confirmed.
And then, once the three teams are decided, they will go head-to-head in a straight shootout for the SailGP Championship.
We are telling you now, you don’t want to miss this!