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SailGP practice racing full of surprises in Aarhus for ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix

by SailGP 19 Aug 2021 13:21 PDT 21-22 August 2021
Practice racing ahead of the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix © Thomas Lovelock for SailGP

Aarhus Bay, playground to the inaugural ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix, is proving itself as a drama-filled stage for this week's return to SailGP racing action. With a capsize by the Danish team and a new speed record for the British already on the books during practice racing, fans are sure to witness a spectacular main event on August 20-21.

The Danish event sees the return of both sail racing giants and Olympians who will reunite with their SailGP Teams to battle for supremacy on Danish waters. Ben Ainslie has returned to the driver's seat for Great Britain, along with a new family member to cheer him on. And, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are back in charge of the New Zealand SailGP Team following silver medal success in Tokyo.

For the home team, Nicolai Sehested will be looking to newly crowned golden girl Anne-Marie Rindom - fresh from success at the Tokyo Olympics - to help catapult the team to the front of the highly-competitive fleet. Sehested will be relying on her local knowledge, alongside fellow Olympic gold medalist Martin Kirketerp, following many years of Olympic training on Aarhus Bay.

After suffering a capsize during practice, Sehested is eager to put this behind the team and get back on course to impress the hometown crowd with a win.

Sehested said: "We are super excited to be here and it is something we always wanted to do - compete in front of a home crowd. We know that this venue has the potential to be a spectacular racing venue and we are really excited to put a show on for the fans.

"There is always pressure and we always have to deliver, and that doesn't change at home or away. So we are going to work hard to get that podium finish."

While Denmark's spill earlier this week created a buzz, the British team upped the ante by breaking the SailGP speed record, which it currently held. Clocking in at an electrifying 98.3 km/h (53.1 knots) with the 18 meter wingsail, the Great Britain SailGP Team has now taken to setting the speed bar with Ainslie back in the driving seat.

Ainslie said: "I think if it's like that it's going to be a blast. I expect to see someone getting to triple figures at some point - breaking the 100 km/h record. That's pretty incredible for any boat, let alone these boats.

"The forecast is for a drop in wind for racing, so the speed might not be up there, but the action will certainly be spot on."

Points remain tight as the eight national teams head into Season 2's fourth event. Leading the way are Tom Slingsby's Australia, Great Britain and Billy Besson's French team in the top three seats, with only one point separating second and third place. Jimmy Spithill's U.S. team is just off the podium in fourth.

Slingsby said: "Fortunately, we had a great last event, but it's been up and down for us so far. We've had a last, a third and a first so we are not exactly consistent. We are moving in the right direction, and with plenty of events to go we are at the right end so far but we do need consistency. If one team is able to have top three or top four events throughout the season they will make that Final race."

New Zealand SailGP Team, currently sitting in eighth position, welcomes back Burling (driver) and Tuke (wing trimmer) - along with Josh Junior (grinder), and Andy Maloney (flight controller) - after their impressive Olympic campaign in Tokyo. The Kiwi team has some ground to make up but Burling hopes to climb back up the leaderboard.

Burling said: "I think for us it's a lot about time on the water and really maximizing those opportunities we get to train as a group on the boat. And, over the last couple of days we have got a lot more comfortable, especially in the upper wind strength that we'll see today.

"But we are very much still in a learning phase. The good thing is that from the data no one can hide or do anything different, so it is pretty easy to go back and review what other teams were doing at specific events and at specific times. That is what we have been doing, and we have been learning a lot."

In fifth spot is Nathan Outteridge's Japan SailGP Team with Leo Takahashi (flight controller) and Sena Takano back in action after the Tokyo Olympics; and right behind them is Spain SailGP Team, reuniting with their recent Olympians, bronze medalist Joan Cardona (grinder) and Jordi Xammar (driver), alongside Florian Trittel (wing trimmer) and Tara Pacheco.

In addition to the high-speed racing on the water, SailGP is also in a Race for the Future off of it. And, Denmark saw the launch of the first-ever Champions for Change - a thought leadership network designed to share knowledge and collaborate with partner organizations and host cities to accelerate the transition to clean energy and drive solutions for a better planet.

The first event focused on cities and their role in addressing climate change with expert panelists including Fiona Morgan, Director of Purpose and Impact, SailGP; Anne Jensen, Head of Sustainability at Aarhus FC; Max Weiss, Executive Director, Europe, CDP; Mirella Vitale, Senior Vice President, Group Marketing, Communications & Public Affairs, ROCKWOOL; and Simon Kjaer Hansen, C40.

Excitement leading up to the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix included other Race For The Future initiatives. Inspire Learning - one of SailGP's community outreach programs - saw its largest gathering of students take part in a five day STEM series, hosted alongside Aarhus University. With almost 1,000 students taking part, activities focused on the elements - Earth, Wind, Sun, Water - under the league's Powered by Nature mantle. The 80 schools participating in the workshops will then carry forward lessons throughout their curriculum.

Partnerships in Aarhus also include work with Danish organization Little Sun to support communities around the world to combat energy poverty including SailGP directly supporting a school in Tanzania. The Adopt-a-Club program - with eight local sailing clubs championing the SailGP teams - continues it's community engagement efforts getting more youth involved in sailing, and crosses over with the Inspire Careers and Racing community engagement program.

The ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix will comprise two days of racing with five fleet races followed by a podium race, with the top three boats in the ultimate showdown to decide the winner on Saturday, August 21.

Limited tickets are available. Boat owners are also invited to take their vessels out to watch the racing and can register via SailGP's Bring Your Own Boat Program. By registering, fans will receive all of the racecourse information and a VHF channel to listen to live race commentary.

Fans unable to attend can watch all the action broadcast live in 175 territories, including via TV2 in Denmark. Full details can be found at sailgp.com/watch

Current Season 2 Leaderboard:

1. AUS - 22 points
2. GBR - 22 points
3. FRA - 21 points
4. USA - 19 points
5. JPN - 19 points
6. ESP - 19 points
7. DEN - 17 points
8. NZL - 17 points

Injury on U.S. SailGP Team forces roster change by US SailGP Team

The United States SailGP Team's bid to climb the SailGP Season 2 overall standings faced a new challenge today, less than 24 hours before the start of racing at the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix, when veteran Wing Trimmer Paul Campbell-James broke his leg in official practice racing, ruling him out for the event.

The U.S. SailGP Team has secured to its roster Jason Saunders, who previously raced as interim wing trimmer for the New Zealand SailGP Team earlier this season, in a temporary capacity for the Danish event.

Saunders is currently en route to Aarhus from Marseille, France and will arrive prior to racing tomorrow.

The injury to Campbell-James was the result of a maneuver during official practice racing that threw both him and Driver Jimmy Spithill out of the cockpit.

Spithill: "Our thoughts are with Paul and all of us on the team wish him a quick and successful recovery. Obviously, this has an unexpected and significant impact for our team as we look towards the weekend's racing but if anything, this team has performed exceptionally under pressure, fighting through more adversity than any other team this season. We'll come out fighting tomorrow."

Despite starting the season at the bottom of the leaderboard following an unsolicited collision and capsize in Bermuda, strong performances at subsequent events - including two consecutive podium final appearances - currently has the U.S. SailGP Team sitting in fourth place, only three points out of first place overall.

The injury to Campbell-James adds to a season that has seen the American team plagued with misfortune, most recently fighting through a defective rudder at the previous in Plymouth which was responsible for loss of flight in the final race, a rudder that was supplied to the team after an underwater collision in Italy robbed the team of its first event win.

Slingsby's crew prepares for the 'ashes on water' by Australia SailGP Team

Slingsby and his crew have their sights firmly set on the British side as a key competitor to beat, with Driver Sir Ben Ainslie returning to the wheel of the British F50 after missing the two previous SailGP events.

"Ben Ainsle is a big dog of the sailing world and at the top of his game. When we have him on the race track we know that we need to be at 100%. They are not going to give us any breaks and they will be aggressive on the start track. Our team wants to compete against the best and the challenge of that is exciting to me", said Slingsby.

The event will also see the return of Jason Waterhouse on board the Australian team as Flight Controller. Jason was absent from the previous two SailGP events, due to his Tokyo 2020 Olympic commitments.

Waterhouse commented, "It's good to be back with the guys. They did an outstanding job staying at the top of the leaderboard with quite a few crew changes. I was a little rusty getting back into it, but once we got settled it was just like old times."

After winning the Plymouth Sail Grand Prix, the Australians currently sit at the top of the overall Championship leaderboard on 22 points, with Great Britain sitting in second position on level points.

Slingsby commented on the close leaderboard saying, "It's such a tight competition. With only five points between us at the top of the fleet and those in the bottom of the fleet, it just shows that we do need consistency in our performance. If one team is able to maintain a top three or top four position in all events for the season, then they will get a spot in the $1 million dollar final race. We can't keep going from first to last position at each event."

Off the water, the Australian SailGP Team is in third place in SailGP's new Impact League, a world-first integrated second leaderboard created for all eight international teams, where the teams are rewarded for the positive actions they make to reduce their overall carbon footprint and help accelerate inclusivity in sailing. The team has been working closely with its Race For The Future partner Parley For The Oceans to maximise its positive impact and climb up the Impact League leaderboard too.

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