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Yes Minister

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 1 Mar 22:00 GMT
Winners are grinners - Ineos Team GBR take out Round One of the 2020 SailGP season. © John Curnow

SailGP's Season Two opener in Sydney went off with a bang as usual, and you get the feeling that there were more people watching via various mediums, including plain old being there. On that very score, the anecdotal account is that there were far more punters, based on what they were taking snaps of, and that can only mean more people interested, and ultimately, more participation. Nice one!

Now he may not quite have grappled with my style of questioning, but it was really good of Ben Ainslie to afford us a few moments before he literally headed off to meet his plane. His INEOS Team GBR has laid down the definitive marker for SailGP 2020. They had spent more time on the foils than the others, and gone about their manoeuvres with serious and quite ominous aplomb.

There were just the two questions I had for him in a post-Brexit world. It all stemmed from thinking that INEOS Team GBR is like the best Trade Mission you could have. They are the killer brand of all brands, and providing expertise to other nautical companies like Princess Yachts is just part of what they get up to. Clearly and quite evidently they are also getting fantastic results. So I wondered if Sir Ben might be getting fitted up at some point as the new Minister for Trade and Foreign Affairs...

"We're going to be fine. We are going to do an amazing an deal with America, as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are best mates, and we are going to be world leaders," said Ainslie.

Supersonic flight time

Last week in Fresh Oil we raised the notion of supersonic time, and what it all meant. Every skipper has always said that there is nothing like the F50, and getting time in them is crucial to your crew's development and performance.

So then consider this in light of that particular notion. At the time when British Airways retired the Concorde, their pilots had more supersonic hours than their Air Force cousins (on either side of the pond mind you). It is because every day the pilots squeezed into the tiny cockpit, cracked the elongated nose so they could at least see the tarmac before them, roared down the runway in the haze of their own massive black exhaust trail, and got you to the other side of the Atlantic three to four hours ahead of the jumbo that had taken off ages before you.

Now you'd have to think that getting 'double' the time in the two different supersonic sailing classes is of great help, and having just witnessed it first hand in Sydney, you wonder if you might see it all transpire again in Sardinia this April.

At any rate Ainslie said of this particular notion, "We have got Luke Parkinson, who would definitely be in the Royal Australian Air Force if he wasn't a yachtsman, so we're in a good place." Talking of being that quick all round, Ainslie said, "We are enjoying putting the boat where we want to."

Two skippers from last year did really well. They were Phil Robertson in charge of the very promising Team Spain, and Nathan Outteridge at the helm of the new-look Team Japan. The latter finished in third place, which is quite the achievement when you consider that he lost his two key positions in the off season, and had to comply with his team's dynamic nationality clause as part of their status under their development country status.

"It is tough when you get very little training with two new guys, and we spent a lot of it just getting them up to speed on their roles. I did 500 days of sailing with Iain Jensen and Luke Parkinson in Bermuda and with the AC72s, so in about 500 days we'll be there with Ayden Menzies and Leo Takahashi. So the fact that we did it in six days, and were mixing it with most of the crews, and consistently getting third is awesome."

"We do not get a lot of time to sail before San Francisco, so we just have to find avenues to eliminate some errors. There is a lot of data to go through as well, so we will get better and better. I am really happy with what the crew were able to do. Being a solid third team is a good start for us right now. We will also look to start better, which was a strength of ours last year, and that comes down to me. Combining it with getting around the first mark cleanly will mean we can look to achieving firsts and second places."

The big cheese

As per last year, when we did exactly the same, we also spoke with the man himself, Russell Coutts. Once again he was very gracious with his time, talking for 15 minutes, and we will have a separate piece this week with all of the information that came from that discussion.

This time, we not only had a look ahead, but also his take on the year that was. My first question was that if he was writing his own report card, what would he give SailGP. "Six out of ten. There is still a lot to improve, but I do think we are getting there quickly. Operationally we can look at many things, and I think we have to look at it this way to get us to where it can be. We have to push ourselves to improve."

It is undeniably true that I am a proud Australian, and one fact stemming from the weekend had me not only applauding all of our magnificent and talented sailors, but also marvelling at the various systems that have developed them. Out of a total of 35 sailors, there were 10 Australians that took part in Round One, and they were on four of the seven craft that comprised the fleet (AUS, JPN, GBR and DEN). Aussies skippered two of the F50s, and all of our SailGP athletes have incredible CVs that include almost countless World Championships, Olympic bling of all colours, hoisting the Auld Mug aloft, along with wins in offshore classics. Impressive stuff all right...

Finally then, this image is real. As our Managing Editor, Mark Jardine says, "It's one of those shots which ties grass roots to the absolute pinnacle." SailGP's Inspire programme is all about creating life-changing opportunities for people aged 9-23 years though sailing, and is made possible through the efforts of SailGP's partners RS Sailing, WASZP, Rooster and MarkSetBot.

Right oh - there is plenty of information on the site for you to review when you can. Please avail yourself of it, below.

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Finally, keep a weather eye on Sail-World. We are here to bring you the whole story from all over the world...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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