Thousands of fans made their way to Plymouth Hoe this weekend, joining the hundreds of spectator boats lined along The Sound to witness the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix and its nautical action.
Tom Slingsby’s Australia SailGP Team celebrated its first victory of Season 2, winning this third stage, subsequently now sharing the overall top spot with Great Britain.
The Season 1 champions managed to achieve revenge against the British after Bermuda to make an astounding comeback this season, winning the event in a thrilling three-boat final between the US and French SailGP teams.
“It was a crazy last race. We went from leading, to coming last, then battled our way to second and then had to push to get over France and we got there. It was so close and heading into that last manoeuvre it could have gone either way but we nailed the perfect foiling gybe and victory was ours,” said Slingsby.
“We had a few obstacles as a team for this event, especially with training up new sailors in a matter of days. With this and everything going on at home in Australia with COVID, I just feel so proud that we can take home this win and some good news for our country.
“We have shifted from the top of the leaderboard, to bottom after Italy, and now back to the top after Great Britain, in just three events. You can see that there are just a few points between the top of the fleet, which just shows how close this competition is.”
Celebrating with his Australia crew members was grinder Nick Hutton, who hails from the UK city of Devon.
“It’s always great to win, and for me, it’s extra special winning in Plymouth. It’s as close as I’m ever going to get to racing at home, so I’m super happy. The last race was very hectic for us, we didn’t make it easy for ourselves, but it was great to get it done,” Hutton admitted.
But this season also saw the French and US teams – the former including Billy Besson on the helm and Leigh McMillan onboard – follow close behind. After a nail-biting final race which saw multiple lead changes, the French eventually took home the silver. A podium finish that’s placed them in the top three overall leaders.
“We had a bad start during the first race, and we know the starts are really important. The start in Race 5 was much better and we finished second, which meant we were able to qualify for the final. We were very happy to be there and we tried to win but it was a difficult race,” said Bresson.
“We have learned a lot over the past few events. We’ll keep working to remain stable and stay in the mix. We’re in a good position, and we hope to still be fighting at the front by the end of the season. We’re not here for nothing!”
The US SailGP Team similarly found a level of redemption, taking a hard-fought third-place finish off the back of two disappointing results.
“It was a good day because we made the final race again, but unfortunately, we had a bit of a technical issue on our starboard rudder that was deteriorating throughout the day,” said Jimmy Spithill, helmsman of the US SailGP Team.
“It was a good result for the team, given what had happened in the first two events. We’ve climbed our way up the leaderboard to mid-table, and it’s very tight, so we’re happy with that.”
Sadly, the British did not qualify for the final podium race in front of its home fans, but it was interim driver Paul Goodison who earned the loudest cheer of the day when his team crossed the finish line to win the fifth race of the weekend.
Goodison, who has been driving the British F50 in the absence of Sir Ben Ainslie, signed off his SailGP stint with a fourth-place finish.
“That was a special day. It felt fantastic to cross the finish line in first place in front of our brilliant home support at the end. There was a lot of pressure to perform after yesterday, and it was really impressive how the whole team rallied,” said Goodison.
“There were so many positive vibes going out there this morning, and then seeing all the fans and hearing all the noise coming from them on the water was just incredible.”
SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts said of the weekend, “The crowds were loving it. I went for a walk during the race to see what the reaction was and they were really engaged. I think Plymouth should be really proud of the event here. They really did deliver a magnificent event. One that I will certainly remember for a long time.”
“The format works really well, and now the teams are getting more and more competitive the racing is getting better and better,” he added.
“The three-boat final, I think, is a massive success. We saw that today, there were lead changes, and it was on the whole way round. It is very difficult to know what the outcome is going to be and that creates great sport, great competition and great interest. I think it’s a real step forward for the sport.”
The next stage of SailGP will be 20–21 August at the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix.
3. United States
4. Great Britain
7. New Zealand
1. Australia, 22 pts
2. Great Britain, 22 pts
3. France, 21 pts
4. United States, 19 pts
5. Japan, 19 pts
6. Spain, 19 pts
7. Denmark, 17 pts
8. New Zealand, 17 pts