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SailGP Italy: USA and Japan tied at top of leaderboard after Day 1 in Taranto

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 5 Jun 06:35 PDT 6 June 2021
The F50 fleet gets off the start line in the first race on Race Day 1 at Italy SailGP, Event 2, Season 2 in Taranto, Italy. 05 June © Bob Martin/SailGP

USA and Japan dominated the first day of racing in the SailGP Italy, sailed in winds of 8-10kts out of Taranto.

As practiced on Friday the crews were reduced by two in an effort to make the F50 wingsailed catamarans foil more readily with the mid-range 24metre wingsail.

The move worked the way of the more experienced crews - JapanSailGP (Nathan Outteridge) and USASailGP (Jimmy Spithill) who finished the day tied at the top of the leaderboard on 21pts each with SailGP Spain (Phil Robertson) in third overall.

Season 1 series winner, Tom Slingsby, would no doubt have been in that top group, has the Australian team not been plagued with a hydraulic oil leak The issue was only noticed just before the start of Race 1, which forced their withdrawal from Race 1, and kept them at the back of the fleet in the other two races.

Two teams, New Zealand and Great Britain had new helmsmen for this series.

Along with the reduction in crew numbers, and the premium placed on dry tacks/gybes by the combination of the light breeze and all-purpose wingsail, both the Brits and the Kiwis lacked co-ordination at critical moments, dropping their F50's into displacement mode on either one or both hulls.

Using former Alinghi helmsman Arnaud Psarofaghis, the NZSailGP team were generally on the money at the start. They were a little too quick in the second race of the three, being fractionally over the start line and were sent almost to the back of the fleet for their sins. Psarofaghis had the kiwis in the lead, at the first mark in Race 1. They held their lead until leg 3, when they dropped off the foils in a tack, and dropped back to fourth.

In the Race 3 start the New Zealand team was on the money, but slow on the foils, and none of the other seven teams were a match for a flying USA team, who went on to win their second race - using Spithill's simple tactical plan of "trying to stay clear and keeping the pack behind us."

The US team and Japanese teams both sailed very measured races giving themselves plenty of time, when they could, in their tacks and gybes to stay dry (foil-borne). The others all lost co-ordination at critical points of their maneuvers and paid a heavy price.

Stronger winds are expected for Day 2, when two races will be sailed to pick the top three teams, who will go on to contest the sixth and final race.

Overall Points:

1. USA (Jimmy Spithill) 21pts
2. Japan (Nathan Outteridge) 21pts
3. Spain (Phil Robertson) 17pts
4. France (Billy Besson) 13pts
5. Great Britain (Phil Goodison) 11pts
6. New Zealand (Arnaud Psarofaghis) 11pts
7. Denmark (Nicholai Sehested) 9pts
8. Australia (Tom Slingsby) 5pts

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