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SailGP news, Mac Race results, Transpac updates

by David Schmidt 21 Jul 2021 08:00 PDT July 20, 2021
Australian SailGP team win Great Britain SailGP (Event 3, Season 2) in Plymouth © Bob Martin for SailGP

What a difference a year can make! While no one wants to re-live 2020, the science-driven miracles of mRNA and traditional Covid-19 vaccines have dramatically improved the sailing scene here in North America and beyond, as exemplified by recent and ongoing events. Let's start with this past weekend's Great Britain Sail Grand Prix (July 17-18), which unfurled on the water's off of Plymouth, England, and featured eight teams racing One Design F50 foiling catamarans.

As with other SailGP events, Saturday featured three fleet races, while Sunday involved two more fleet races and then the final, which pitted the leaderboard's three best-ranked teams against each other to determine the event champion.

Saturday's racing began with ideal conditions that skipper Tom Slingsby and his Australia SailGP Team properly leveraged to claim the event's first two bullets. Skipper Jimmy Spithill and his United States SailGP Team took Saturday's second race, but not before a starting-line altercation with the Spain Sail GP team that was so egregious that the event deployed its Black Flag for the first time in its history against the Spanish team.

The Yankee-flagged squad reportedly managed this starting line kerfuffle well, and their win earned them a berth for Sunday's final.

Sunday also featured sunny, light-air conditions that seemed to suit three teams in particular: JapanSailGP Team, who won the day's first race, and the hosting Great Britain SailGP Team, who took the event's final fleet racing bullet.

Once the final leaderboard positions were determined, Australia SailGP Team, France SailGP Team, and United States SailGP Team met on the starting line for the regatta's final winner-takes-all race. Once the finishing gun fell silent, the teams finished in that same alphabetical order.

"I think, being candid with ourselves, it is easy to say we had a bad event in Italy," said Slingsby after the final race, in an official event press release. "But for this event we decided we do need to look at ourselves, and we are weaker in lighter air. We needed to work on that issue, so we did that - and we came back strong."

Sail-World tips our hats to Australia SailGP Team, and we remind readers that the next SailGP event is slated to unfurl from August 20-21 on the waters off of Aarhus, Denmark.

Meanwhile, on the East Coast of the USA, the Melges IC37 National Championships took place on the waters off of Newport, Rhode Island this past weekend. Interestingly, this regatta was run in parallel (July 16-18) with the ORC East Coast Championships, both of which were hosted by the New York Yacht Club.

After seven races, co-skippers Drew Freides and Bill Ruh's Pacific Yankee emerged victorious in the Melges 37 fleet, followed by John Brim's Rima37 and Members Only, which was skippered by Jay Cross, Ben Kinney, and Hannah Swett.

"We pride ourselves in having a really good team," says Freides in an official event press release. "We've got the crew work down pretty well. But it's more of shifting gears and always keeping the boat going fast [that separates us from the competition]. I don't think we're faster than anybody, but we're better at getting up to top speed more quickly."

Moving further West, the Chicago Yacht Club's 112th Race to Mackinac also began this weekend and saw 240 vessels and crew take on this classic, 289 nautical mile freshwater contest. Three cruising boat sections began racing on Friday afternoon, while Saturday saw the remaining 17 sections cross the starting line for Mackinac Island.

Conditions were fairly light, translating to relatively slow rides for the fleet. Be sure to stay tuned to the website for the latest news and results from this exciting freshwater classic.

Finally, on the rain-parched West Coast, the Transpacific Yacht Club's 2021 Transpac Race began in three waves, first on Tuesday (July 13) with the Division 8 monohulls, then followed on Friday (July 16) with Division 5, 6, and 7 monohulls. Finally, Division 1, 2, 3, and 4 began their (ballpark) 2,225 nautical mile race to Hawaii on Saturday (July 17).

The all-conquering VPLP 100 Comanche set the standing Transpac record of five days, one hour, 55 minutes, and 26 seconds, in 2017. This is obviously the record that all 2021 skippers and navigators are gunning for, even if they are off the hunt in terms of waterline by a good amount.

Saturday's starters, who are the fastest boats in this year's hunt, range in length from TP52s to an Andrews 77, meaning that they would need very favorable conditions to better Comanche's time.

"A few days ago we got excited when the weather models lined us up for what looked like could be a record run," said Peter Isler, navigator aboard the Volvo 70 turbo Pyewacket. "This is less certain now, but it still looks like a fast race ahead if we can get off the coast tonight."

As of this writing, Pyewacket was ripping along at 15.7 knots, with 1,635 nautical miles to go before the finishing line.

Sail-World wishes all Transpac teams safe, fast passage en route to Hawaii.

So, while we're still a long way off from where the sailing world wants to be in terms of post-pandemic racing (read: regattas are still being cancelled or postponed) things are undoubtedly brighter now than in July of 2020. Hopefully, as global vaccination rates improve, next July will be an even better time to be a sailor (and a human being).

The solution is there, at least for Americans, and while it's tough to hear about climbing infection rates and resulting suffering thanks to the much-feared delta variant, it's important that all Americans realize that Covid is now a preventable disease. Please act (and advise friends and family) accordingly!

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

[Editor's Note: In the original version of this story, I accidentally referred to Drew Freides and Bill Ruh's IC37, Pacific Yankee, which just won the Melges IC37 National Championships, as Yankee Clipper. Compounding matters, I also ran the wrong image. Apologies to Mr. Freides and Mr. Ruh, and congratulations to the Pacific Yankee team for a great win.]

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