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Australia's Tom Slingsby delivers masterclass in extreme conditions at Cowes SailGP

by SailGP 11 Aug 21:47 BST 11 August 2019

In extreme conditions at the European debut of SailGP, Australia's Tom Slingsby proved once again that he is the one to beat in the league's first season. The Australia SailGP Team dominated the field with a sweep of the races while becoming the first crew to break the 50-knot speed barrier in sail racing.

Meanwhile, Rome Kirby's U.S SailGP Team capsized in dramatic fashion and Dylan Fletcher and the British team took a violent nose dive resulting in boat damage that prevented them from finishing racing.

The stakes were higher than ever on the first and only day of racing in Cowes, as the last chance for teams to put points on the leaderboard before the final in Marseille, where the SailGP championship trophy and $1 million awaits the season winner.

Video Replay (apologies if this doesn't show in your region due to restrictions)

In front of a packed crowd at the SailGP Race Village at Egypt Point, Slingsby set a new sail racing speed record, clocking in at 50.0 knots while crossing the finish line of the first race. It marked the first time in sail racing history that a boat broke the 50-knot speed barrier.

Earlier in the week, the Australian team sustained damage to its wing in practice and was unsure whether it would be able to race today, but Sunday morning saw all damage repaired and Slingsby raring to go. The team, which only had a couple hours of practice in its boat this week, made a deal with the French, who loaned the Aussies their boat in exchange for some training with Slingsby onboard.

"We were on the start today with a couple of hours sailing compared to a lot more sailing from a lot of the other teams. I was definitely worried," said Slingsby. "It was hairy out there. It might have looked easy, but it definitely wasn't. We just did our best and concentrated on ourselves. We heard other teams were having issues and it could have so easily happened to us."

The United States SailGP Team capsized within 30 seconds of the start of race one, but surprisingly was able to compete in the rest of the day's racing with quick assistance from the SailGP tech team. Despite a tough day, Kirby's American team was able to climb the leaderboard for third place overall.

The Great Britain SailGP Team wasn't as lucky. On the penultimate leg of the first race, the team dug its bow into the water, sending flight controller Chris Draper tumbling over Stuart Bithell in a dramatic crash. No injuries were sustained, however, the boat was too damaged to sail for the remainder of the day. Fletcher was massively disappointed, having had high hopes at his home event after breaking the 50-knot barrier and winning two of two practice races earlier in the week.

"We were sat there before the start of the racing watching the floods of crowd come in, it was amazing to see all that support and we were really looking forward to going racing," said Fletcher. "Then, when we went bow down and that was us, game over for the day. We are so disappointed for ourselves but also the fans that came out to support us."

Teaming up with the Australians paid off for Billy Besson and the French squad, which had its highest score yet, finishing second in the last race of the day, ahead of Japan and the United States.

"It was good for the moral, the work we did the last week here in Cowes was really great and we did a great job," said Besson. "We will be pushing more for the last event in Marseille."

Phil Robertson of the China SailGP Team also had his best finish yet on the Cowes racecourse, with a second-place race finish and third overall placing, making serious gains in stability and speed since New York.

"Wild... that was an absolutely crazy day," said Phil Robertson. "The team is pretty happy with how we finished up, it was a pretty good day all in all. The big thing we learned this week was how to handle the boat a bit better and how to keep the boat safe as well on days like today."

Nathan Outteridge was at the top of the leaderboard, one point ahead of the Australians going into Cowes, but, by the end of the day, the team was trying to hold its own and keep the boat in one piece. A crash down from the foils in race one caused Japan to break one of its grinding pedestals, drastically decreasing performance. Outteridge will have to close a gap of four points to be on par with Slingsby in Marseille.

"The main thing looking ahead to Marseille is to make the match race, and the goal will be to win that match race," said Outteridge. "Today was a big step for us in securing that. Yes, we didn't beat the Australians, we didn't take a race off them here, but we extended our overall lead on the Americans."

SailGP's final stop for Season 1 is in Marseille. Fans can expect the racing to be fierce, with three full days of competition planned, an ultimate winner-takes-all match race for the SailGP championship trophy and $1 million purse.

Cowes SailGP Results:

1 // Australia // 30pts
2 // Japan // 25pts
3 // China // 24pts
4 // France // 22pts
5 // United States // 18pts
6 // Great Britain // 14pts

Season 1 Leaderboard: (after four events)

1 // Australia // 169 pts
2 // Japan // 165 pts
3 // United States // 123 pts
4 // Great Britain // 120 pts
5 // China // 117 pts
6 // France // 115 pts

Individual Cowes SailGP Race Results:

Race 1
1 // Australia // 10pts
2 // Japan // 9pts
3 // China // 8pts
4 // France // 7pts
5 // Great Britain// 6pts
6 // United States // 5pts

Race 2
1 // Australia // 10pts
2 // China // 9pts
3 // Japan // 8pts
4 // United States // 7pts
5 // France // 6pts
6 // Great Britain // 4pts

Race 3
1 // Australia // 10pts
2 // France // 9pts
3 // Japan // 8pts
4 // China // 7pts
5 // United States // 6pts
6 // Great Britain // 4pts

SailGP Australia set a new race record & take glory in toughest race yet (from Australian Sail GP Team)

Tom Slingsby has proven once again that the Australia SailGP team can deliver against all odds after triumphing on UK waters at the inaugural Cowes SailGP and setting a new race record in the process.

The team stormed home to victory, blitzing the six other nations competing and delivering a hat trick with consecutive wins in all three fleet races on the solvent. During the first race the team broke the coveted 50 knot barrier, never accomplished before during a SailGP race, setting a record for the entire league.

"I've been sailing competitively for thirty years and have never cracked the 50 knot mark until three days ago, during our first training session. It was a pretty cool moment for the team and I to hit that 50 knot barrier again in the race, as we crossed the finishing line," said Slingsby.

The victory was even sweeter for Slingsby and the team, given that three days out from the event they weren't even sure they would be able to compete. During the very first training session, the Flying Roo suffered significant damage to its wing during a routine gybe. The shore crew were in a race against time and worked through the night to repair the damage.

"Going into this event with only two hours of training under our belts due to the damage we suffered to our wing was extremely tough, and I was concerned as other teams had several hours of training on us. Our shore crew worked day and night to ensure the roo would be at the starting line and I think as a team we really banded together," said Slingsby.

With only a couple of hours of training on the boat, the Aussies sat at the starting line with the other five competitors facing the toughest conditions ever witnessed at a SailGP event, including gusting winds and fierce waves. The conditions were so challenging, team USA capsized within the first few minutes of the race.

"It doesn't get any more extreme than what we raced in today. However the extreme conditions suited us because we have a lot of experience individually and as a team. The guys really rallied for us and in particular Jason Waterhouse, who had a tough job out there as the flight controller. Sailing a foiling boat in big waves is no easy feat and Jason managed the balance of sailing fast but safe effortlessly," said Slingsby.

Slinbsby's win at Cowes, pushes the team one step closer to $1 million winner takes all final match race taking place at the SailGP Marseille event from the 20th to the 22nd of September.

"We have never raced for this kind of money before and we are going to do everything we can to prepare for this event to ensure that when we fly off the starting line at the first race we have the best shot possible at winning. At the end of the day we are sailing in the fastest boats in the world and we know that we need to be prepared as anything can happen," said Slingsby.

Heartbreak on home waters (from Great Britain Sail GP Team)

With the first day of racing at Cowes SailGP called off due to gale force winds and rough sea states across the UK and in the Solent, all six teams competing in this inaugural season of SailGP knew that Super Sunday in Cowes would be action packed.

With winds on the Solent holding at between 18-22knots, Dylan Fletcher, Great Britain SailGP Team Helm stated before racing: "I think the hardest part is going to be that reach to run; the first bear away around the top mark. Six boats, with that forecast, we will be getting close to and possibly punching over the 50-knot mark. It's going to be the first time all six boats are going that fast, that close together, so fingers crossed we all keep it clean and keep the rigs in the sky."

Thousands of fans came out in force to cheer on the red, white and blue wingsailed catamaran - a packed grandstand and bustling race village welcomed the home team as they sailed just metres from the shore alongside their five rivals; Australia, China, France, Japan and United States.

Having exceeded expectations to take both wins in Thursday's official practise racing, the pressure was on for the British to perform on home waters but the team remained level headed going into the day's racing: "It's going to be a big day. No doubt the more experienced teams are going to be pushing hard - there's been a lot of chat between us and them [Australia and Japan] but I'm sure it will mean some good racing", said Dylan.

Just seconds into the first of three scheduled fleet races, the American team were hit by a gust on the bear away and became the second team, following Great Britain in New York, to capsize the F50. Meanwhile Tom Slingsby's Australian team stormed ahead as Dylan and team battled for second with rival Nathan Outteridge.

Having rolled the Japanese to jump into second place, the British team suffered a devastating crash, nose diving heavily into the Solent and throwing CEO and wing trimmer Chris Draper summersaulting. Thanks to the team's tethers, Chris and the rest of the crew remained safely on board with no injuries besides bruises to show for the incident.

Sadly, the damage to the boat was enough that it meant no more racing for the home team. With damage to the fairing, a broken pedestal and hydraulic damage, the British F50 was towed from the race area while a further two races continued without them.

"We were having a fairly safe but good race and when we went bow down we just broke the boat and unfortunately the tech team weren't able to fix it so that was us - game over for the day", said a devastated Dylan Fletcher following the incident. "We saw in the practise races that we're capable of winning, so we need to get our boat back together and show that in the real races."

Tom Slingsby and his Australian crew had a storming event, winning all three Super Sunday races, breaking the 50 knot barrier during racing and gaining enough points to take the top spot on the overall standings, ahead of Japan.

With a day of no sailing in New York following their capsize and now missing two races in Cowes, the Great Britain SailGP have slid from third to fourth in the standings. Rome Kirby and his American team made a fantastic recovery to go on and race the final two races following their capsize which has pushed them up into third place ahead of the British.

A bitterly disappointing day for Dylan and his team but let's see what the final in Marseille in September brings.

U.S. SailGP Team rallies after capsize at Cowes SailGP (from U.S. SailGP Team)

Overcoming a Race One capsize in extremely tough conditions at Cowes SailGP, the U.S. SailGP Team hung tough despite significant wing damage, to return for Races 2 and 3, moving the Americans into third place overall in the SailGP Championship standings. The SailGP fleet now looks ahead to September's Marseille SailGP Finals to vie for the $1 million prize.

In a dramatic day on The Solent, the challenging sea state and near gale-force winds drew first blood from the Americans, who capsized right after the first turning mark in Race One. Three boats nosedived, but the Americans caught the worst of it as their F50 catamaran slowly tipped over.

"It was eventful to say the least," said Rome Kirby, U.S. SailGP Team Helmsman. "I haven't really had time to digest it yet but coming around the first reach mark we got a little high and then planted it; there's nothing you can do in that situation."

While the Statute of Liberty-adorned F50 returned upright and joined the remaining fleet for Races Two and Three to salvage critical race points, the boat suffered significant damage according to Kirby.

"The boat definitely wasn't going well after the capsize," he said. "We didn't have any wind gear, the hydraulics and the electronics were pretty rough, and our wingsail is literally in tatters so we could barely go upwind. But we got around the track."

Adding to the overall drama, the U.S. Team's closest rival Great Britain, which coming into Cowes SailGP held a one-point lead over the Americans, suffered damage to its crew and boat in Race One and withdrew from the rest of the day's races.

The tenacity of the U.S. Team to return to racing paid off. Currently, the U.S. Team now sits in third place overall, three points ahead of Great Britain.

Looking ahead to the season finale in Marseille, Kirby said they are ready for the fight for the podium. "It's going to come down to Marseille and who's going to sail better there," he said. "We are looking forward to it."

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