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Marine Resources 2022 - LEADERBOARD

SailGP Chicago: Canada's Phil Robertson reflects on how the Crazy Canuck's success unfolded

by Phil Robertson/Canada SailGP 22 Jun 06:46 PDT 2 May 2021
Canada SailGP Team helmed by Phil Robertson on Race Day 1 of the T-Mobile United States Sail Grand Prix, Chicago at Navy Pier, Lake Michigan, Season 3 © Simon Bruty/SailGP

There aren’t many better race tracks than in front of Chicago’s Navy Pier. Saturday’s racing really showcased this, along with the vision of SailGP and how great this series is for our sport! It was the picture perfect race track. With the city centre as a backdrop, shoreline viewing, a tight race course, flat(ish) water and 14kts of breeze, ideal.

Our lead up to Race 1, wasn’t ideal. There was little time to train, we tipped the boat over during the first day, the warm up was tense and hard to find a nice rhythm. Interestingly the start box had two options, to slingshot in from outside the breakwater, or approach slowly from the inside. After two warm up runs we knew the outside was going to be the best option and all focus went onto getting that right. What impresses me so much is this team just “steps up” once that start countdown begins and on schedule we eased into it nicely.

The fresh water of Chicago brought some new challenges onboard with the rudders washing out (losing grip and stalling) quite often. The take off speeds were 3 - 4 kph later meaning your minimum foiling speed also got increased by that amount. The boats were harder to fly high and the rough water at the bottom of the course served up a real challenge for the flight controllers.

Race 1 is always a very open race, everyone is still green, there are nerves and you are frantically trying to figure out what is working on the course. The goal is always to lay down a consistent performance here with a good score. Our game plan going into the day was to come away with three top four finishes as we knew conditions were going to be fickle on Day 2.

Rounding Mark 1 in second placed we found ourselves in a good spot, we didn’t gybe in the best position so we ended up getting rolled by GBR and sandwiched between a couple of boats. During the next gybe in a tight situation we crashed off our foils dropping us back in the fleet. With a new team like ours, every day and every situation we face is a completely new experience for us.

Rounding the bottom mark we were deep in the pack. A strategic call to sail a higher slower mode gave us one less maneuver on the beat, but also set us up with an all important spit from the pack. We sailed downwind in great pressure and found ourselves jumping three positions and into 4th. Time to sail slightly defensive and bank the 4th, a good Race 1 score.

Race 2 & 3 were fairly similar to each other. Sling shot starts from outside the breakwater and rolling the fleet. When you are reaching at 80kph, on the edge of control and rolling across the front of eight boats with only inches to spare, the feeling is like no other, it’s the reaching start equivalent of port tacking the fleet. Rounding Mark 1 in first sets you up to sail your pre race plan. Sticking to plan A rarely happens with all the variables but these two races it did. Two bullets (wins) and job done! A performance that I am really proud of the team for and a good feeling knowing we’d set ourselves up nicely for Day 2.

The big 29m wings were assembled overnight and light airs greeted us for Day 2. Being a lake with no wind you’d think it’d be flat, but there was a lot of leftover chop from the breeze the day before. Lake Michigan often acts like an ocean and this was our roughest day we’d had despite the lack of wind. Our coach Joe Glanfield put down a simple plan for the day, attack!! Being at the top of the leader board can tempt you into defending, but the light airs didn’t really allow for this.

Race 4, we copped a pre-start boundary penalty which meant we were late for the start line, however with space and speed behind the fleet we were free to pounce. The first downwind we went from last to third and jumped the Swiss on the next upwind to sneak into 2nd. A great first race result which sealed our spot in the final.

Race 5 we came in with a mentality to learn for the final and nailed our start. Leading at Mark 1 only to be just shy of the bottom mark lay line, letting the Aussies past. A shorter course offered less passing lanes and we stayed conservative to finish second again. A huge score card for the five race series left us well clear on top but with the final podium race being the decider we needed to come in hot.

For the rest of this story click here

For Phil Robertson's earlier reports on Season 1, 2 and 3 SailGP regattas click here


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