While Season 3 of the global sports league SailGP is still young, the USA team had hoped their slow start would have a better trajectory at the third stop of the 11 event schedule. From the outside that didn’t happen but team skipper Jimmy Spithill looks back on the solid progress made in Plymouth, UK:
It was great to be back racing in Europe for the first time this season as SailGP came to Plymouth this weekend (30-31 July) for the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix.
Plymouth Sound is a great venue and natural amphitheater for the fans. There aren’t many other places like this, and even the weather held up (well, most of the time) so it was cool to see so many spectators come to watch us fly our F50.
I first raced at Plymouth about 10 years ago and it’s always the same – very changeable and challenging conditions, with plenty of opportunities for exciting racing but always a huge turnout – especially with Ben Ainslie at the helm of the British team.
It was also a great opportunity for all of us at the United States SailGP Team to rehabilitate ourselves after such a frustrating home Sail Grand Prix in Chicago last month.
It’s been about four weeks since our last race and we’ve been going over the data thoroughly, studying the onboard communications and our boat setup. One of the coolest things about SailGP is that thanks to Oracle we have an incredible depth of information at our fingertips, and there’s no hiding – the numbers don’t lie.
We’ve invested in a new crew combination this season and knew it would take time to settle in.
I think a great example of that is the New Zealand team. This is a group that has sailed together for several AC campaigns, not to mention the amazing partnership and history of Pete and Blair and their Olympic success. It took this team over a season to qualify for a podium race, which they sailed in style by winning.
So as a team we need to put that into perspective and continue our learning curve, but more importantly, the ability to be consistent during the weekend’s high-pressure races.
If there was a time when we lost motivation or broke up, it would have happened. So I am encouraged that the team is in a positive mood and shows that we are building the right culture. The debriefings and meetings are very open and very focused on learning and growth and how each one of us can improve.
I think people take for granted how high the level is in SailGP. Without a doubt it is the most talented fleet of sailors ever assembled and if you look at the races it’s clear there are no bad teams – the level has improved since last season and the margins are even finer than usual.
I’m a big believer in momentum and consistency. It has a huge impact on performance, and I’ve seen firsthand during my America’s Cup and match racing days how it can boost your confidence. When things are going well, it can have a sort of scaling effect – it not only strengthens you, it weakens your competitors.
But one of the hardest parts of SailGP is that unlike most other sports, there simply aren’t any opportunities to practice. When you play basketball, you can always make more hoops. If you are a soccer player, grab the ball and go to the field. If you’re a swimmer, hit the pool.
But with these crazy and complicated machines, you might only get a handful of hours of training a month in this game. That gives you plenty of time to think, but it also means making the most of every minute on board the F50. Race weeks are high pressure and high stakes, with long days on and off the water.
And whenever we get out of there, we just have to send it off. Don’t hesitate – it’s the only way to sail these boats if you want to improve. But if you break something – or someone – you’re jeopardizing your entire event.
It’s a risk-versus-reward scenario that makes for intriguing racing even at the “practice” events, as each team has the exact same goal.
Plymouth was a step in the right direction racing-wise and we’ve made solid progress. I thought our boat speed was a big improvement over previous events. We make mistakes in important parts of the race and if you do, boats will pass you. That lack of consistency really hurt us and a few failed maneuvers cost us.
Two teams, New Zealand and Denmark, were in the final for the first time. It shows how competitive the fleet is and that we are all fighting together against my old pal Slingers who has been so dominant with the Aussies for the last few seasons.
I’m heartened by the Kiwis’ victory as they worked really hard to finally get there and win an event. There are no shortcuts at SailGP – all you have to do is keep working hard and staying honest.
Next we head to Copenhagen on August 19th-20th for the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix to kick off three action-packed Sail Grands Prix over the next seven weeks. It’s going to be an intense and grueling schedule, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would race tomorrow if you give me the chance.
And from a team perspective: we were in this position last season. The points will come to us if we can get some clean races.
Plymouth final results
1. New Zealand, 2-2-1-5-1-(1), 44
2. Australia, 6-1-4-3-3-(2), 38
3. Denmark, 8-5-2-2-2-(3), 36
4. Great Britain, 4-4-6-1-4, 36
5th France, 3-3-5-4-9, 31st
6. Canada, 1-9-3-9-7, 26
7. United States, 9-6-7-6-5, 22
8. Switzerland, 5-7-8-8-8, 19
9 Spain, 7-8-9-7-6, 14
SailGP Info – Plymouth Details – Season 3 Scoreboard – Facebook – How to Watch
Season 3 Ranking (after three events)
1. Australia, Tom Slingsby – 29 points
2. Great Britain, Ben Ainslie – 24 points
3. New Zealand, Peter Burling – 22 points
4. Canada, Phil Robertson – 22 points
5. Denmark, Nicolai Sehested – 20 points
6. France, Quentin Delapierre – 15 points
7. USA, Jimmy Spithill – 13 points
8. Spain, Jordi Xammar – 8 points
9. Switzerland, Sebastien Schneiter – 7 points
2022-23 SailGP Season 3 Schedule
14-15 May 2022 – Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess
18-19 June 2022 – United States Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier
30-31 July 2022 – Great Britain Sail Grand Prix | Plymouth
18-19 August 2022 – ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix | Copenhagen
9th to 10th September 2022 – France Sail Grand Prix | Saint Tropez
23-24 September 2022 – Spanish Sailing Grand Prix | Andalusia – Cadiz
11-12 November 2022 – Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas
14-15 January 2023 – Singapore Sail Grand Prix
18-19 February 2023 – Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney
17-18 March 2023 – New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch
6th-7th May 2023 – United States Sail Grand Prix | San Francisco (Season 3 Grand Finale)
Format for the 2022-23 SailGP events:
• Teams compete in identical F50 catamarans.
• Each event runs over two days.
• There will be three races each day, for a total of six races at each event.
• All teams take part in the first five fleet races.
• The final match race pits the top three teams against each other to be crowned event champions and take home the bulk of the $300,000 prize pool, which will be split among the top three teams.
• The season concludes with the Grand Final, which includes the Championship Final Race – a match race with a $1 million prize at stake.
For the competition documents click here.
Founded in 2018, SailGP aims to be an annual, global sports league with fan-centric shoreside races in some of the iconic ports around the world. Competing national teams compete in identical F50 catamarans for prize money as the season culminates with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race.