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Highfield Boats - Sailing - LEADERBOARD

SailGP reveals the name and details of the American and Australian national teams

by David Schmidt 15 Oct 2018 11:00 PDT October 15, 2018
Oracle Team USA now become United States SailGP Team on the Sail GP circuit © Richard Gladwell

The past few weeks have brought interesting news from the world of high-performance multihull sailing, with word of Sir Russell Coutts' and Larry Ellison's recently unveiled SailGP series. This World Sailing-sanctioned circuit will see six teams compete in five international events in 2019 aboard repurposed AC50s (that were originally used in the 35th America's Cup), which are being rebuilt and rebranded as One Design F50s following months in the shed at Ellison's Core Builders in New Zealand. Impressively, the first of these five 2019 events is slated to unfurl on the waters off of Sydney, Australia from February 15-16, which is exactly four months from today.

While this is exciting news for fans of Grand Prix sailing, there were still some significant question marks remaining at the series' October 4, 2018 launch in London. Specifically, of the six national teams (Australia, China, France, Japan, the UK, and the USA) that are listed on the event's webpage, details only existed for the Great Britain SailGP squad, which is being led by team CEO and wing trimmer Chris Draper, who is a veteran of the Softbank Team Japan 2017 Cup campaign.

Now, however, the veil has now also been lifted from two more teams, the United States SailGP team and the Australian SailGP team. Not surprisingly, given the 50-knot speeds and impressive technologies involved in the powerful F50s, these teams both include names of former Oracle Team USA stars.

The United States SailGP team is being led by skipper and helmsman Rome Kirby, who won the Auld Mug in 2013 aboard Oracle Team USA and who was also on the team for their loss in 2017, and is being crewed by Riley Gibbs (wing trimmer), Hans Henken (flight control), Mac Agnese (grinder) and Dan Morris (grinder).

"It's an incredible honor to represent the United States and compete for our country," says Kirby. "We're all lifelong sailors – it's our profession and our passion. But until now we've never had the chance to go toe-to-toe against the world's best international sailors over a full season of competition. SailGP brings something totally new to the sport."

Meanwhile, news recently broke that Olympic Gold medallist, eight-time world champion and America's Cup winner Tom Slingsby will lead the Australia SailGP Team. "Slingo" will be joined in racecourse combat by fellow Cup winner and Volvo Ocean Race sailor Kyle Langford (wing trimmer), Jason Waterhouse (flight controller), Ironman contender Ky Hurst (grinder) and Cup alumni Sam Newton (grinder), who won the 2013 Cup alongside Kirby and Slingsby. This powerhouse quintet will also see fellow Oracle Team USA alumni Kinley Fowler serving as their reserve.

"The opportunity to represent my country again is an extraordinary honor, and the chance to start this campaign on home waters – the best harbor in the world – is something that will make it even more special," said Slingsby. "We've assembled not only what I believe is the top of Australian sailing talent, but a team that is 100-percent focused on making our country, our fans and our sponsors proud to be on the journey with us. I've seen how national team success can unite and inspire not only sailors but the broader public, and we now have a chance to deliver that."

These exciting announcements help to fill in some of the critical SailGP blank spaces, but with three yet-to-be-revealed teams (China, France and Japan) there are still a lot of important details to go. Fortunately for those of us who are not super strong in the patience department when it comes to getting our high-performance armchair-sailing fix (your editor's hand is waving in the air), the wait won't be long, given the Sydney event's February 15 starting guns.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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