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Bronze in sight for Kirby and U.S. SailGP Team ahead of Marseille SailGP Showdown

by Laura Muma 19 Sep 14:20 PDT 20-22 September 2019
U.S. SailGP Team training in Marseille before the Grand Final. © Matt Knighton for SailGP

Throughout a dramatic first SailGP season, the resilient United States SailGP Team has climbed the overall standings and is now in a battle with the British (only three points separate the two) for owning a podium spot after the SailGP Grand Final in Marseille, September 20-22.

Since the inaugural SailGP event in Sydney, the American squad has one-upped themselves at each new event tackling new challenges and delivering impressive improvements.

A look back

When first forming the U.S. SailGP Team, Helmsman Rome Kirby invested in a young, talented squad, who before February at Sydney SailGP had never raced together.

"It was most important for me to get the right mix of people and skill sets together," said Kirby early on in the season. "This is an incredibly tough boat to sail and we are learning the F50 together. I know we have all the right ingredients and talents and we will improve quickly."

Kirby's strategy to invest in building a team from the ground up paid off.

The team used Sydney's last-place finish as fuel and arrived at San Francisco SailGP hungry to improve. Coming out of the gate, the U.S. SailGP Team showed its forward progress through winning the starts and leading races, resulting in jumping two spots on the leaderboard.

But New York would test the team's tenacity when minutes before the first race Wing Trimmer Riley Gibbs injured his back. The team's Shore Manager Jeff Causey stepped in to fill the role on day one before Tom Johnson, the team's reserve wing trimmer, could join the team on day two. Despite the adversities, the Americans earned their first race win of the season that weekend, and first podium finish.

Next up, Cowes SailGP, where U.S. SailGP Team dramatically capsized just moments after the first race began in the most harrowing conditions SailGP had seen yet. Incredibly, they completed the final two races with little more than duct tape holding their severely damaged F50 together and earned valuable overall points to move them into third place overall.

Season finale preview: battle with the Brits for podium

Now, having arrived in Marseille for the SailGP Grand Final, the team aims to consolidate its overall podium position and punctuate an incredible first season.

Three intense days of racing are planned to provide U.S. fans and spectators plenty of action from the Bay of Marseille. The weekend conditions are shaping up for a potential Cowes repeat at the top end of the wind spectrum.

"It's going to be full-on this weekend," said Kirby. "There's a lot that can happen out there with the projected conditions, but most of all we need to keep the boat upright; we are all going to have our hands full."

The American - British rivalry will be one to watch, as both are ready for redemption after each team's challenges in Cowes. However, Kirby feels confident that if the U.S. squad focuses on their strengths, getting good starts and sailing the boat well, the result will take care of itself.

"Third place for us would be a huge success for the season, and we're excited to get out there."

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