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Whaddya reckon?

by John Curnow, Editor Sail-World AUS 17 Feb 14:00 PST
Wheelie from Team GBR © John Curnow

So what if you made the running surface hard? Really, really, really hard, actually. But still made from water, however? Well that would make it ice then.

When I wrote the line last week, 'Right now, and apart from one-off record-breaking craft, the F50s are the fastest sail driven craft on the planet', liquid water vessels like Sailrocket and l'Hydroptère were more on my mind than frozen water craft like the lake beasts, which have become even more serious over the last 10 years.

So even though we have had videos of ice yachting in these editorials before, clearly it was not top of mind. Many thanks go to Mark Spicknall for making me pay attention once more. 194km/h is certainly way faster than 50 knots, and you can check it out below...

At any rate Mark went on to add, "Heck, even a Blokart on the beach is faster than an F50! Actually really love your site, but you really asked for it by the using of "craft' from a long-time iceboater (as well as soft water sailor). Seriously, though, keep up the great work." Thanks Mark, we plan too, and many thanks for making time to write in. Always great, and appreciated!

So then, and with that great segue provided, let's go to the F50s of SailGP. The system is good. It has now been proven that the system works, and it is very entertaining. It does offer a grand spectacle, very much akin to F1. The team behind it all are very driven, and it will get better and better as the season unfolds. There is more to come, but for now, the 150 person crew will have to put them into six containers each, and get them off to San Francisco where they will be on again come May.

SailGP got non-sailors all geed up, with one such person even writing to me, "How much fun was that!!!" Even Olympians were enthralled and some even had that pang of 'I wish I was there' that they were happy to talk about with me.

At any rate, I got some time with Sir Russell Coutts immediately after the final. The most immediate aspect was to see if there would be some alterations of some kind made to the leaders to haul them back in a bit. This was especially so, given that on the second day, the leaders separated out even more so, and daylight was very much in second place, as the others spent more time in low-rider mode doing say six to eight knots, where the others would be in the high twenties and beyond, which affords almost instantaneous, and significant margins to be created.

Coutts responded swiftly to the notion of constraints like extra weight as per horse racing, and some forms of motor racing, or sending the leaders to a further mark, for instance. "No, I don't think so. I believe the crews will equalise very quickly. Clearly you saw that two teams have had more experience in these types of craft, and it was predictable to a degree. The good thing is that it shows that it all comes down to the abilities of the sailors, and I think that is a good thing."

"We do not want to do anything artificial. We want SailGP to be about the best sailors winning this. We do not want to play or mess with it. We will get different conditions in the different venues, and this will favour some sailors over others, just as it does in any class."

"All of these teams hate losing. That is the one thing they have in common, so they are all going to work hard. Losing hurts. You could see that in Nathan (Outteridge, skipper of Team Japan) for instance."

The race organisers prescribe the tech package for each day's racing, and the teams can select the jib they wish to use. The new 18m heavy weather wing will be available by the time Cowes comes around. It of course gets matched to a set of elevators and foils of differing wingspans. There is also the super rig, which is 4m taller than the ones used in Sydney, so they will foil in anything over 6 knots, but do not expect to see that package available before next year.

"We are trying to make it more predictable in terms of ensuring we do not have any weather delays in our Friday/Saturday short window racing. I thought it was good racing out there, even with the existing rigs. Stick another 4m on top and they'll be gone. We have lots of other improvements with the foils and so forth, as we keep evolving the product to make it better and better."

Many a sport has created a short version of their game, or allowed it to be played or even driven under lights, when the viewing audience can attend or watch, and it suits and international audience. One of the easiest to look at would be the rise and rise of T20 cricket. SailGP is the same. It is defined. You know that if you show up on the track at 1500hrs local, you will see some racing, and it'll be done by 1700. "You don't get a lot of viewership in the middle of the day. The world of staging sports events throughout and over the daytime hours has gone, and it is not that long ago, either! I think you have to cater to people's new lifestyles and viewing habits, and shift your event to suit that. Clearly people have other things to do now during the day, and so we are moving more and more towards that."

We reflected on the venerable and magical 12s, which are certainly not the same to watch. Coutts said, "I love those boats, but times have changed, and I am sure if you spoke to the kids of today and said which would you choose, the answer would be pretty clear. You cannot hold back technology. I had many great races on big, traditional boats, but SailGP is the new world."

There is certainly a mission at hand, and they will be testing the new short rigs soon enough. Coutts feels that it could well be Marseilles where they get an airing if the famed Mistral blows in, or a Scirocco for that matter. In a way, we are not strictly speaking One Design. It is very simple, however. Each team has to use the equipment as supplied, and are not allowed to change it. What this allows is for the design team to consider any improvement. They can change the control systems, the foils, and the wings. We can do whatever we think is better, in a totally open way, as long as we can provide identical equipment for each team.

"This means there is no handbrake. You are not dealing with a written rule, and then having to go and get approval by vote from all of the ten teams involved. Therefore, we do not get stuck by the chances of something not gaining unanimous support. Our rule is simple - You use what is supplied." By the way, it was all done inside 18 months, from inception to the building of three new boats, and putting six on the water for the inaugural event! So well done SailGP, for that is one big effort. "Well, thanks, yeah. It was a huge effort from all of our team."

So if you class SailGP as a good system, one that works, has legs, and is viable, then as the Global Communications Director, what would you say about it? Christy Cahill obliged us, "We have found with this first event that it has been incredibly exciting to just to get to this point. A lot of people have worked incredibly hard over the last year to get us here, and get us on the start line. I think what we have seen is that it is a great product, and whilst it may take a little bit of time to iron some of the kinks, what we have is something people want to see."

"It will only get better form here, and the conditions on Sydney Harbour may not have been perfect, but we did get to showcase these supercharged boats in an exciting way. As we keep going, and keep learning, then more people will get interested in our product. The interest we have seen globally is really promising and strong."

"We have just signed Rolex as our presenting partner, that's bodes well for the future for us commercially. There are number of other partnerships that are in the works for the future, so now that they have all seen it happen, it will cement the existing ones and assist with those to come on board. The reception we have been getting over the last two days since these boats have really launched in both social and mainstream media has been quite positive, and everyone is happy to see these boats on the water. In turn, this is exciting for us and proves that what we have created is a worthwhile product."

So there were always high expectations with something like this and with the kinds of people involved. Cahill's thoughts were, "Yes they have been from the beginning, which is ultimately a positive thing. We do have to build from here and the learning curve is steep, but our improvements for San Fran next and then Marseilles at the end of the season will probably be a whole different world from what we have just witnessed. Across the business, we will improve as time goes on. The sailors will get more time on the water and this will make them more uniform, as the time has been limited to date."

"How we deal with hospitality, logistics, sponsors and so forth will do the same. There are probably not many new leagues or championships that started at a point as high as we did. It is a big achievement to showcase it the way we did from the first event I think even if you take F1, in their infancy, they would have been very different to what they are now, and certainly this is what we are hearing from people who were around in those times."

"We are looking forward to San Francisco now. We will enjoy a short pause, but it is scarily just around the corner. We will regroup and take our key learnings to begin the improvements and harness on the potential as shown here in Sydney. Season One has begun and it feels really good to have the first event in the bag now."

My comment? Well as great as it was to see Team AUS take out SailGP, it is almost bittersweet, for we cannot even get an AC team together. Might have even seen a glimmer of the same sentiment in Tom. Just saying...

Right oh here today there are some gems for you to review. We have information about the Etchells, the 18s, Sail GP, intel from North Sails, racing on the River Derwent in Tasmania, Adelaide to Port Lincoln, IMOCAs, OKs, RORC Caribbean 600, Golden Globe, EFG Sailing Arabia, foiling awards, Adams 10s, the Clipper, Transpac Tahiti, and certainly there is much, much more.

Remember, if your class or association is generating material, make sure we help you spread your word, and you can do that by emailing us. Should you have been forwarded this email by a friend, and want to get your very own copy in your inbox moving forward, then simply follow the instructions on our newsletter page, where you can also register for different editions.

Finally, keep a weather eye on Sail-World. We are here to bring you the whole story from all over the world...

John Curnow
Editor Sail-World AUS

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