SailGP Sydney takes flight tomorrow

Tom Slingsby has been flying above Sydney Harbour today on his F-50 foiling catamaran, preparing to defend his title tomorrow and Saturday (17-18 December). The 2021 Rolex World Sailor of the Year is sitting on top of SailGP with 45 points - but tied just one point behind are two Aussie rivals: Nathan Outteridge driving for Japan and Jimmy Spithill, driving for USA.

That’s so exciting, you probably lost half a lockdown kilo just reading about it.

But in case anyone has just come in…. SailGP has the world’s sharpest foiling sailors racing the F-50 wing-sailed foiling catamaran at more than 100 km/hr – and the speeds are building. The F-50 evolved from the one-design AC50 of the 2017 America’s Cup in Bermuda. It incubated in the brains of Sir Russell Coutts and sailing technology’s big-BIG picture billionaire guy, Larry Ellison.

“So how’s it going?” I asked Sir Russell, back in October.

“It’s charging,” he said.

I wondered if I could say that and sound as cool as he does.

The F-50 has AC in its DNA and so do most of the skippers. Apart from Outteridge, Spithill and Slingsby, there are Peter Burling (NZ) and Ben Ainslie (UK). Others include Phil Robertson, (Spain), Nicolai Sehested (Denmark), Sebastien Schneiter (Switzerland) and Quentin Delapierre (France). Canada will join in season three.

Every SailGP event sees just six, 15-minute races over two days. The boats are routinely doing more than 100 km/hr with up to 10 boats involved, so 15-minutes is plenty of drama.

SailGP is a flexible, movable beast. The wing-sailed F-50 is a simpler variation of the AC50: the hulls are sleeker; the rules are simpler and the budgets are smaller - and so are the syndicates are smaller.

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are running their own campaign, quite separate from Team New Zealand. Hot off their America’s Cup win, they started as favourites but have failed to foil into the elite top three of any SailGP event so far. Ouch.

Scoring is straightforward. The boat that wins the most races over five races at each event gets the most points. The top three scoring boats race off in The Final to declare the Event Champion. First, second and third placegetters get 10, 9 and 8 points respectively, which they carry through to the Championship Leaderboard.

The remaining teams are similarly awarded points according to their ranking. The highest scoring team at the end of the season goes home $1m richer.

Check out the website below to decide how you're going to watch it, then sit down in your favourite chair, strap on a five-point harness to keep your safe, and watch SailGP go crazy in Sydney.

How to watch:

Caption: Great Britain SailGP Team helmed by Ben Ainslie capsizes during the final on Race Day 2 at Spain SailGP, Event 6, Season 2 in Cadiz, Andalucia, Spain. 10 October 2021. Photo: Bob Martin for SailGP.

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