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SailGP season opener serves and frustrates in equal measure

by Mark Jardine 26 Apr 2021 03:07 PDT 24-25 April 2021

Firstly, I take my hat off to the logistics team at SailGP that the event happened at all. With a Covid lockdown in Bermuda and the general difficulties in travel, getting eight international teams and the paraphernalia to a small island in the North Atlantic was no mean feat.

If that wasn't complex enough, the production, commentary and umpiring team were in London. All the data had to be transmitted in near real-time to and fro between the two locations. This did of course result in delays during post-race Q&As with the skippers, but it worked. With a split commentary team there were the inevitable pauses and points of talking over each other, but as we all know with Zoom calls, these are pretty much unavoidable.

There were also a few issues with graphic overlays on day one, with shadows appearing in the wrong place and boat telemetry juddering, but these were mostly ironed out for Sunday's racing which, all in all, was much smoother.

The line-up of sailors is truly world-class. Ben Ainslie, Peter Burling, Tom Slingsby, Jimmy Spithill, Nathan Outteridge, Billy Besson and many more are gracing the racecourse and doing their best to tame the F50 beasts. The sailors went all-out, resulting in a few hairy moments and collisions; the worst being Nathan Outteridge's Japanese team entanglement with Jimmy Spithill's USA team.

The use of kilometres per hour instead of knots was an out-and-out disaster, which was further compounded by the speed in kph being displayed as knots in race one. I have no doubt that this was a smart idea from a marketing guru to appeal to the masses. All it did was confuse and alienate the core audience of sailors, who - if they're anything like me - spent time typing speeds into Google to get the equivalent in knots.

Was this to make the speeds look higher than the AC75? If so, it didn't work. Please can we return to knots for SailGP event 2, so that the excellent Freddie Carr doesn't have to say, "That's 33 knots in old money," again on the commentary? His insights were superb throughout the racing, as were Stevie Morrison's, but you could almost hear the sigh every time he had to utter that phrase.

SailGP is taking sailing coverage to the next level and we're incredibly lucky to have a benefactor like Larry Ellison who is willing to back sailing in this manner. I have no doubt the team will learn fast from this season opener.

Replay the live coverage (this may be currently blocked in your region due to rights restrictions)

Day 1

Day 2

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