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SailGP: Of Flight Controllers, Drivers, Wing Trimmers, Grinders and things

by SailGP 12 Jan 01:32 PST 12 January 2022
Japan SailGP Team helmed by Nathan Outteridge in action 4 Race Day 2. Australia Sail Grand Prix presented by KPMG. 18 December 2021. © Bob Martin/SailGP

SailGP's cutting-edge F50 catamaran is a technological marvel and only the most elite athletes can fly one of these boats, which hit speeds of nearly 100 km/h (62 mph) in the perfect conditions.

The crew have to be at the top of their game each time they race the F50, but do you actually know what each of the people onboard are doing on the boat to ensure it flies across the waves?

For those SailGP fans not so up to speed with the intricacies of the F50, we join Japan SailGP Team Driver Nathan Outteridge for a brief explanation of each role on the F50.

Driver “The main thing the Driver does on the boat is make the decision where to go on the racecourse," says Outteridge. "They communicate to the crew what the plan is.

“Furthermore, most of the skippers in the teams, myself included, are heavily involved in the logistics of the event.”

Flight Controller Outteridge continues: “The Flight Controller is responsible for keeping the boat in the air. Every time the boat touches the water is a time the Flight Controller has made a mistake.

“He needs to keep the boat flat and keep the boat locked in going fast. He needs to have a very good relationship with the Driver and Wing Trimmer to make sure the boat is locked in and going quick.”

Wing Trimmer “The Wing Trimmer needs to have a really good understanding of how to generate power, and how to distribute that power on the boat," says Outteridge.

Japan teammate Chris Draper, who trims the wing on the F50, adds: “I can basically control all the power in the boat at any one moment.

"I have to put the wing in the right shape and communicate to Nathan the best modes to sail to get to the goal as quickly as possible.”

Grinder “At the front of the boat we have two Grinders positioned," finishes Outteridge. "One Grinder faces forward and one Grinder faces backwards. Both of the Grinders at the front are turning the handle for the winch to make sure we can trim the wing sheet as effectively as possible.

“Leo Takahashi is our primary No.1 Grinder and he faces forward, and Yuki Kasatani is grinding facing backwards. He’s looking at [Wing Trimmer] Chris Draper in the eyes and making sure he knows what Chris needs in terms of the amount of power.

“He also has to be very brave, because he’s going round the racecourse extremely fast facing backwards, so he has to have a lot of trust in the guys behind him.”

Learn more about the crew roles on one of SailGP's cutting-edge F50s by watching the below video

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