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SailGP: Cool headed Brits win action packed SailGP Canada

by Richard Gladwell/ 2 Jun 14:26 PDT
Australia SailGP Team capsize during the second race as Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team sail past on Race Day 2 of the Rockwool Canada Sail Grand Prix in Halifax, Canada - June 2, 2024 © Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

The Final Day of Rockwool SailGP Canada was one of the most dramatic in the event's four-year history, as the British team sailed effortlessly to win in the rain at Halifax.

Showing the experience that can only be gained by winning four Olympic Gold medals between them, strategist Hannah Mills and skipper Giles Scott maintained the same cool, consistent performance they exhibited on the first day of the two-day event.

They left their best until last, winning the three-boat Final from France and Denmark.

The British won the start, retained the lead at Mark 1, and were never headed to win the Final—all that was ever in doubt was their winning margin, which was generally around 300 metres. However, it dropped to less than 50 metres at the penultimate mark before the Brits were able to pull away again, leaving France and Denmark to battle for second place, which Quentin Delapierre was able to achieve in a photofinish.

Three times Grand Final winner Tom Slingsby (Australia) emulated the US team's feat in the previous event in Bermuda - by accidentally inverting the wingsail, in 16kt winds, while leading the final fleet race - forcing the 50ft foiling catamaran to capsize - putting them out of the race. A similar issue in Race 4 almost gave the same outcome, saved by the quick thinking of trimmer Kyle Langford releasing the sheet when the Australians looked like they were at the point of no return, but on that occasion, they recovered and continued racing.

The day began with strong winds and adverse weather, permitting only seven of the ten teams to be launched in time to make the scheduled start time for Race 4. Germany missed race 4, but did get on the water in time to make Race 5. A decision that was described as "unfortunate" by the commentary team. The two bottom-placed teams from Day 1 missed out completely.

The wind was blowing at 18kts for Race 4, described as "brutal" by the Ealing based commentary team, and "beautiful" by Canadian skipper Phil Robertson. The breeze eased to 15kts for the Final. The crews sailed with the 24metre rig and high performance foils, with the Brits hitting a top speed of 52kts during racing.

The German, Swiss and USA teams are privately owned with sponsor obligations, but were the three teams left off the launch schedule. Both Swiss and USA teams had high profile crews on board, with Emirates Team NZ's co-helmsman and Olympic Gold and Silver medalist, Nathan Outteridge being excluded from the Day 2 action as helm on the Swiss team. Top match racer, Taylor Canfield, was not happy with the decision to be denied participation as a privately funded USA team which changed ownership and crew mid-season. While they are chasing a top result that goal cannot be achieved without practice/racing time in the F50s.

The decision by the League to leave privately owned teams ashore, is hard to follow - given the pressure put on teams funded by the League to get sponsors and become financially independent. In the past, League funded boats have been dropped when resources are tight.

Their absence made for a less congested race course, which worked against the chances of the Kiwi team being able to bypass the peloton if Burling and friends got away to a slow start and had to recover - as they seem to be able to achieve with astonishing regularity.

The New Zealand team started as the overall series leader and was in a strong position to make the Final race - after lying second overnight. However, a series of errors and reduced traffic due to the smaller start numbers meant that skipper Peter Burling and friends had to hit the front and protect that position.

In Race 4, New Zealand started at the leeward end of the line and was too low, being forced to sail at displacement speed up the layline to make the leeward start mark.

Above them, the other seven boats started in a bunch, with less traffic, and all were foiling and sailing fast. The Kiwis were overrun and were where they didn't want to be - last place at the first turning mark. Fresh from christening their new AC75 in Barcelona, the French America's Cup/SailGP team led off the start with the Australians in hot pursuit sailing at over 40kts. The front runners were France, Australia and Canada. The Canadians triggered a near capsize by the Australians, who were forced to avoid the Canadians, who held the right of way as they approached Mark 3. Skipper Tom Slingsby could be heard calling "Invert, Invert, Invert" - wingsail trimmer Kyle Langford obliged and with the pressure relieved, the Australians fell back on their feet, but in last place.

New Zealand came back fast, taking the right-hand gate and avoiding the congestion at Mark 3, and it looked like they might be back in the game in fifth place.

Australia made sure they couldn't make one of their signature comebacks, spectacularly stuffing the F50, but recovered without further incident.

The British team was always in contact with the top group, which included Canada, France, Great Britain, and Denmark. That was the order around Mark 5, and it remained that way until the finish.

The Kiwis got away to a better start in Race 5 - aiming for the centre of the start line and sailing fast. Their only problem was that the rest of the fleet did the same - in what was a very good start for the whole fleet. The top three in this final fleet race - Spain, Great Britain and France - went on to contest the Final.

With heavy rain now restricting visibility, Scott and Mills engineered a near-perfect start to the Final and lead at Mark 1. From there, they enjoyed a lead of up to 300 metres - except at Mark 5, when it seemed as though the French team would overtake. But the Delapierre and friends nosedived slightly - applying the handbrake - and the Scott and Mills Show freed once again, easing away for a decisive win in both the Final and the Event championship.

The French and Danes were in a photo-finish for second - with Delapierre making a slick move in the final metres to finish to secure second overall in the regatta, from Denmark, Spain and New Zealand.

The next event is in New York starting on June 22, before moving to San Francisco for the winner-take-all all $ 2 million purse to the winner of the Grand Final

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