Australia SailGP Team Wins Season 2 of SailGP
Tom Slingsby has led the Australia SailGP team to a stunning victory and secured a place in history, after beating Japan and USA in the final drama fuelled race, to be crowned the SailGP Champions of Season 2.
Slingsby went head to head with long standing season rivals and fellow Australian’s Nathan Outteridge from the Japan team and Jimmy Spithill from the USA team on the San Francisco Bay, battling freak weather conditions and drama never witnessed before in racing.
The first Grand Final race in fact had to be abandoned, after a whale was sighted breaching inside the course, just as the Australians had cinched the lead. But not one to be rattled by adversity, Slingsby proved the team’s superior tactical prowess and brute strength in the second scheduled grand final race.
This wasn't the only challenge for the San Francisco leg of Season 2 of the SailGP. The Australian SailGP Team capsized on San Francisco Bay during a training session, seriously damaging the P50. The capsize occurred towards the end of the team’s routine training from a failed tack bear away. all athletes were safe and accounted for following the incident.
Tom Slingsby said: “It was getting late in the day and the breeze was building. We were out for our final training run and we went for a tack bear away which is a hard manoeuvre and unfortunately we capsized.”
“We have broken a few of the fairings on the platform and some of the electrical components, but the biggest damage is to the wing. The top flap of the wing basically disintegrated on impact so that needs to be rebuilt from scratch. Typically that would be a one week process, but our tech team is looking to do this in the next 48 hours.”
The SailGP tech team worked to repair the damage, with the aim of having the team back on the water as soon as possible, in preparation for the Season Final weekend where they were racing on San Francisco Bay.
Jimmy Spithill stated his United States SailGP Team was the underdog heading into the Season 2 Grand Final on home waters. The USA have performed strongly this campaign - despite not winning a single event - and they had already qualified for the three-team winner-takes-all final race in San Francisco.
Australia had also booked their place in the title decider, with Japan likely to claim the final spot to race for the chance to win the Championship trophy.
Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge, Drivers for Australia and Japan respectively, have both been in this situation before, having taken part in the Season 1 Final race in 2019. Slingsby’s Australia team won the Marseille showdown, despite a pre-start penalty, and Spithill thinks this big game experience will benefit his rivals.
Speaking at the pre-event press conference, USA Driver Spithill said: “If you are looking at it, Tom is the defending champion and Nathan was also in the final. To be honest, Nathan had the $1million dollars in his hands, but it slipped through and Tom got past.
“They’ve also done more time in these boats than anybody else.
“I believe we are the underdog, but the rest of us are catching up with Tom. We’ve all learnt things from the data. We haven’t caught up yet, but we are bridging that gap. Tom won’t be out there today [due to Australia’s capsize], so that is another opportunity for me, Nathan and the rest of the fleet to bridge that gap.”
USA SailGP Team helmed by Jimmy Spithill sail close to the Golden Gate Bridge during a practice session ahead of San Francisco SailGP Season, March 25th, 2022. Photo: Simon Bruty for SailGP.
Jimmy Spithill, CEO and Driver of USA SailGP Team during pre-race press conference. Photo: Bob Martin for SailGP.
Slingsby spoke at the press conference knowing he would be having a very different final practice day compared to his rivals, as he wouldn't be able to get out on the water with the Aussie boat undergoing major repair work on the Tech Base.
“We had a tough day yesterday, but everyday we go out we are pushing it,” said Slingsby. “It was unfortunate timing in one way as we miss all the practice today, but good timing in another way as it didn’t happen today and we miss the racing on Saturday.”
Australia SailGP Team capsize during a practice session March 24 2022. Photo: Felix Diemer for SailGP.
Australia SailGP Team capsize during a practice session March 24 2022. Photo: Ricardo Pinto for SailGP.
Nathan Outteridge, CEO and driver of Japan SailGP Team during practice session. Photo: Ricardo Pinto for SailGP.
On Saturday March 27 Nathan Outteridge and Tom Slingsby renewed their rivalry to end the opening day of the Mubadala United States Sail Grand Prix at the top end the table on equal points.
With huge crowds gathered in San Francisco to watch the action on a fine spring afternoon, Japan and Australia put in top-class performances to each claim 18 points and finish the day first and second respectively. The Aussies didn’t win a race on the Bay, but a string of consistent showings were excellent preparation for Sunday’s Grand Final.
Australia SailGP Team in action on Race Day 1 of San Francisco SailGP, March 26, 2022. Photo: Jed Jacobsohn for SailGP
Japan, meanwhile, won race three and their current points total all-but ensures their qualification for the Final, alongside Australia and the United States, who themselves disappointed on home waters to end the day in seventh place.
As the sun beamed down on the Bay as the action kicked off, all eyes were on Great Britain’s newly designed boat which bears an eye-catching livery. And Ben Ainslie’s team christened their new F50 in perfect fashion, winning the opening race ahead of the Aussies.
The British boat was not the only new thing on display in San Francisco, however, as Spain also had a new Driver in place following the exit of Phil Robertson earlier this week. Unfortunately, it was a debut race to forget for Jordi Xammar, whose team finished in last place.
Things certainly got better for the Barcelona native, though. A third place finish in race two - courtesy of a late penalty to Australia which knocked Slingsby’s team down the rankings - was followed up by a second place finish in the final race of the day. The delight onboard F50 Victoria was audible as the finish line was crossed in front of the sold-out bleachers.
Denmark claimed the victory in the second race, securing just their third win of the season, while Japan recovered well from an early mistake which saw them drop off their foils to rise up into second. The home USA team disappointingly finished seventh in this race, amid suggestions Jimmy Spithill and his crew may be reserving their strength for the Grand Final
Increasing winds as the day wore on resulted in some breakneck speeds in the third Fleet Race, with Japan breaking the 90 km/h mark on multiple occasions on their way to victory. Spain (second) and Australia (third) also proved their credentials in the strong winds.
As for the remainder of the fleet, it was a disappointing day for France, with a 7-8-7 record seeing them finish last, five points adrift of the USA in seventh. New Zealand’s mixed performances - including a last place finish in race three - had them one point ahead of Spithill’s team at the end of the day.
Sunday March 27 was deemed 'a crazy day on the Bay' that saw collisions between France and New Zealand and Spain and the USA, while two races were abandoned and restarted - including the Grand Final itself due to the aforementioned whale entering the racecourse. Once the race was restarted, the Aussies overcame all this adversity to prove their talent once again. Wild cheers greeted their lifting of the Championship trophy in the San Francisco race village.
The Aussies, who won the inaugural Championship in 2019, defeated incredibly tough conditions to win the entire Mubadala Sail Grand Prix event, before overcoming Nathan Outteridge's Japan and Jimmy Spithill's USA in the winner-takes-all final race.
Nathan Outteridge, CEO and driver of Japan SailGP Team and Tom Slingsby CEO and driver of Australia SailGP Team in the Adrenaline Lounge after the Grand Final on Race Day2 San Francisco March 27th, 2022. Photo: Adam Warner for Sail GP.
Tom Slingsby said: “We are going to be trying as hard as we can to get back on the water to train ahead of the racing, so we can test out the boat and make sure everything is working properly. It's disappointing and it’s not the preparation we wanted. Unfortunately there are going to be a lot of people having late nights trying to get us ready, but we have an amazing shore and tech team around us.”
Following the Australian team’s dominant performance at the Australia Sail Grand Prix, the team had already clinched a spot in Sunday’s winner-take-all, Grand Final race where they competed against the United States team and then as-to-be-named third team for the season championship title.
Tom Slingsby said: “I think we all knew coming into today that we would need to freestyle given these freak weather conditions and I told my team to expect anything, but I can safely say that none of us expected a whale to be the thing that would holt our grand final.”
The dominant Australian team took the lead in the start line and from there had secured a convincing 500 metre advantage on Japan and USA, who struggled in the shifty wind conditions.
Tom Slingsby said: I never have to question that my team will perform under pressure. I mean we are the only winner of SailGP and it’s not just the fact that we win, but we win dominantly. We have proven time and time again that we are the strongest team. I’m so proud to have Australia on the top step and to prove once again that Australia is the best sailing nation in the world.”
Nina Curtis also made history as the first female athlete in a SailGP team to win a SailGP Grand Final. Curtis, on board as a Tactician, provided key tactical calls to the team which were critical in delivering the win for the team.
Nina Curtis said: It’s pretty incredible to be the first female athlete to win a SailGP grand final. I have learnt so much from this team and there is a lot of confidence in our ability even with all of the madness that we saw on the course today.
In addition to the victory, Slingsby and the team walked away with the grand Thomas Lyte-designed SailGP Championship trophy and the most substantial monetary prize in the sport, US$1 million. Slingsby plans to distribute the prize money amongst both sailors and shore crew, who he credits as being instrumental in the success of the team on the water.
The winner of the Impact League was also announced. A world-first in sport – The Impact League integrates positive sustainability action into the sport with teams competing at each event to win points in the league. The New Zealand SailGP Team took the ‘podium for the planet’ with its Race for the Future partner, Live Ocean. Great Britain came in second place with STEM Crew, and Australia third with Parley.
The Australia SailGP Team worked with commercial partner WLTH to fund beach clean-ups, as well as hosting Parley Talks and Ocean Schools at SailGP events. The team also worked hard to install a new mindset around plastic by adopting Parley’s AIR strategy - avoid, intercept redesign.
"We’ve never really seen this calibre of fleet anywhere in the world," said Slingsby after the Grand Final. "You always talk about, 'Who is the best sailor around the world?', but to be here with all even boats makes it huge for me that Australia came out on top.
"We can call ourselves the best sailors in the world. That is more important than money. Glory lasts forever, and it really feels like that."
"We have proven time and time again that we are the strongest team. I’m so proud to have Australia on the top step and to prove once again that Australia is the best sailing nation in the world.”
The Australian SailGP Team for Season 2 of the SailGP were: Tom Slingsby CEO and Driver (Gosford), Kyle Langford Wing Trimmer (Port Macquarie), Jason Waterhouse Flight Controller and Tactician (Pittwater), Sam Newton Grinder (Sydney), Kinley Fowler Fight Controller and Grinder (Perth), Nick Hutton Grinder (Landscove, U.K.) Nina Curtis, Tactician (Avalon, Pittwater).
Slingsby and the Australia team will now prepare to compete in SailGP Season 3, which will commence in Bermuda on the 14-15 of May.
On February 8, 2021 it was announced by SailGP that three of Australia’s top female sailors will take part in an invitational camp hosted at Woollahra Sailing Club in Sydney, as part of a new program aimed at accelerating the inclusion of female athletes in SailGP.
Following an application process and impressive interest from female sailors across the country, Australia team helm Tom Slingsby selected Lisa Darmanin, Nina Curtis and Natasha Byrant to join him for the two day camp. Sailors Mara Stransky and Hayley Outteridge were also selected to take part in the camp, however were unable to attend due to COVID border restrictions in Australia.
The three women who took part in the camp have a long list of sailing achievements and experience. Lisa Darmanin holds an Olympic Silver Medal in the Nacra class, with Nina Curtis also holding an Olympic Silver Medal in the Match Racing class and experience competing in the 2017/2018 Ocean Volvo Race on team Brunel. Young up and coming sailor Natasha Bryant was named the Youth World Champion in 2016 for the 29er class and also recently campaigned for the 2021 Olympics in the FX class.
The camp saw the athletes demonstrate their foiling sailing abilities on WASZP’s, a one-design single person foiling dinghy. This provided Slingsby with the opportunity to view the athlete’s potential ability on the one design 50-foot foiling catamarans used in SailGP. The program, launched last year, forms part of SailGP’s Race for the Future purpose-driven agenda, working to create an end-to-end pathway to expand female participation in the sport and, ultimately, the league.
The initial phase of the program saw two women from the camp selected to join the Australian team - the reigning SailGP Champions - for the opening event of SailGP Season 2 in Bermuda when the global league restarts on 24-25 April. Following the pre-season training and development in Bermuda at least one of the athletes will be selected to join the team for the duration of the season.
“We have an impressive talent pool of female athletes in Australia to select from for this camp, which includes sailors with Olympic experience and national titles. This camp is just the start of the pathway that we are creating, which will give female athletes an opportunity to represent their country and race in a global championship which hasn’t really been possible before now”, said Slingsby.
“The next step for us is to get the two selected athletes experience on the F50s in Bermuda, so they can test their skill set, trial various positions on the boat and I can see how they work in a team environment.”
Lisa Darmanin commented on the program saying, “This not only provides a career pathway to professional female sailors but it also will inspire the next generation of young athletes coming up the ranks, who get to see women competing on these F50s, and can work towards this.”
Fellow participant Natasha Bryant said, ”I took part in the Inspire Program at the Sydney SailGP last year which was my first experience of foiling and I loved it. It was a massive honour to be able to take part in the camp and have the opportunity to learn from Tom Slingsby first hand, who has such a huge amount of experience in the foiling world.”
The SailGP Season 2 was postponed due to COVID-19 and was rescheduled to start in Bermuda (April 24-25). From there the sports pinnacle league will travel to Europe with events in Taranto (ITA, June 5-6, 2021), Plymouth (GBR, July 17-18), Aarhus (DEN, August 20-21), Saint-Tropez (FRA, September 11-12) and Cádiz (ESP, October 9-10). SailGP will also make its first visit to Christchurch for New Zealand’s maiden grand prix on January 29-30, 2022. The season culminated with the Grand Final in San Francisco on March 26-27, 2022, when the champion was determined in a single $1 million winner-takes-all final.