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Spain tops season leaderboard after dramatic second day in SailGP Italy

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 6 Jun 14:50 BST 7 June 2021
Japan SailGP Team helmed by Nathan Outterridge, celebrate on board their F50 catamaran as winners of the final match race on Race Day 2 at the Italy SailGP, Event 2, Season 2 in Taranto, Italy. 06 June © Bob Martin / SailGP

For the second day Japan SailGP continued to dominate the racing at SailGP Italy, winning the second race of the day and then taking the Final on a drama-filled day.

Due to a collision with USA, on the second day of the first round of Season 2, in Bermuda, the Japanese team only sits in third place on the season leaderboard, despite giving the fleet a sailing lesson in variable conditions on both days of the two day, six race regatta. The venue was the ancient port of Taranto, in the heel of Southern Italy, whose pre-history dates back to 706 BC when it was founded as a Greek colony.

Race 4:

The first of three races of the day was sailed with full crew of five sailors, in a breeze of 8.5kts from the SSW at the start. The extra bodyweight did not seem to make that much difference to the foiling performance, except when the breeze dropped to 4kts during the race. The key was to get foiling and then use the increased apparent windspeed to stay airborne.

NZSailGP with interim helmsman Arnaud Psarofaghis (SUI), from the GC32 circuit, got away to a fast flying start in Race 4, literally leaving the pack in his wake.

While Jimmy Spithill in USASailGP, and Nathan Outteridge, skippering JapanSailGP both engaged with the Kiwis on the windward legs - and each had a shot at leading the eight boat fleet. But Psarofaghis recovered, despite a flight time of only 50%, and with the help of a fresher breeze got Amokura foiling up the penultimate leg and carried on to have a comfortable win. Spithill sailing for the USA, had a similar run with the breeze on the last two legs to take second place. Japan was third, after being buried at the start.

Phil Robertson skippering SpainSailGP opened the door for the Kiwis to become the third finalist, with a second to last place in Race 5, helping to elevate the Kiwis into equal third with Spain on 19pts each.

Race 5:

The Kiwis looked to have the third spot in the Final in the kitbag, early on, after Nathan Outteridge locked Phil Robertson out at the start, forcing the SpainSailGP team to turn through 360 degrees to windward of the startline before being able to chase the fleet. Jimmy Spithill in USASailGP was pinged by the umpires for a premature start, at the head of a bunch at the leeward end of the line, and was required to drop back behind Japan. Tom Slingsby skippering AustraliaSailGP, executed a blinder of a start taking the transoms of a bunch of four boats at the windward end of the line, and was able to hit the line foiling, and at top speed, and in clear air to lead around Mark 1.

Meanwhile Psarofaghis got the Kiwis away to a handy third place around Mark 1, and held that position until halfway up Leg 3, although struggling to get foiling early in Leg 3.

But a very marginal port and starboard intersection with the British went against the Kiwis. To absolve their penalty, the umpires required the Kiwis to drop back behind the British who were heading on starboard to the left hand side of the course. The Kiwis appeared to be unaware of the penalty call, possibly because the crossing did not even look close, but the Brits appeared to sail higher in their final approach to the intersection The kiwis continued to head to the right hand layline, getting a lift and sailing in more pressure. When Psarofaghis tacked it was a long way back to get astern of the British now coming off the opposite layline. Prior to the penalty, the kiwis were ahead of Spain by 5pts - more than sufficient to make the three-boat Final and be guaranteed of third place for the event.

Soon after tacking and aiming for the British transom (who had France queued behind them) the booth umpire called a second penalty on the Kiwis, by now 100 metres ahead of the British and France on the opposite side of the course. After clearing their penalty the Kiwi game plan completely unravelled as they sailed into Mark 3 sailing in the turbulent air of Denmark, Britain and France. With rivals Spain coming across to Mark 3 on port tack and as giveway boat, the Kiwis let Robertson off the hook by doing a low-speed tack inside the mark rounding circle, and in the space of less than a minute the Kiwis dropped three boats, including Spain, and gave away their place in the final.

The double penalty when they were 25 metres ahead of GBR, and a decision to tack around Mark 4, instead of doing a bear away rounding of the opposite gate mark, was the final nail in the Kiwis coffin as the rest of the fleet headed down Leg 4 foil-borne.

Nathan Outteridge popped into second place towards the top of Leg 3, and took the lead off his compatriot Tom Slingsby (Australia) soon after the start of Leg 4, with Slingsby opting for the right hand side of the course, while the others (aside from NZ and Denmark) went left. USA never recovered from their start-line panalty and trailed in eighth place, trailing the second placed Kiwis by 200 metres. However with a place already booked in the Final from Day 1, the outcome of the fifth race had little bearing on the sixth and final race for USA.

By race end Japan had a substantial lead over Australia, with the Kiwis in seventh and out of the regatta, after having a final spot assured if they could have held a comfortable margin when in fourth place on Leg 4.

The Final:

Between races the call was made for the crews to be reduced, as happened on the first day, to three for the final full fleet race, with the corrector weights also being changed to ensure the boats sailed with close to the same crew weight and righting moment as possible.

The Final Race was contested between Spain, USA and Japan. Jimmy Spithill (USA) got his blue hulled F50 into a commanding position off the start, ahead of Japan. Robertson (SpainSailGP) was ahead of the starting signal, and received the briefest of early start penalties.

Spithill held his lead down the first run, but came off the foils after going left at the start of Leg 3, and losing the breeze slightly during a critical phase of a boundary tack. Outteridge spun around the right hand gate mark, came off the foils briefly, but recovered in the slightly fresher breeze. However Robertson did a near-dry tack on Mark 2 and headed for the extra pressure on the right, sailing at twice the speed of the other two for a time, but dropped back into third after he crossed over to the left hand lay-line.

Spithill eased out to a 200metre lead, and appeared to have the race under control.

The race came to an unfortunate end for Spithill and the American team at the bottom of Leg 4, when they had good pace rounding the left hand gate, but as they exited the mark circle, the F50 reared up before crashing back, and stopped. The cause was later put down to striking an object in the water, breaking a rudder, and was a heartbreaking end for the US team. It was the second series in which serious damage issues had beset the Americans, reflected in their equal last position on the Season 2 leaderboard

That left Japan and Spain to sail out the course, 130metres apart, to take first and second places respectively - and push Spain to the top of the series Leaderboard, with Japan moving up to third.


Series 2 - Taranto

Japan 10pts
Spain 9pts
USA 8pts
New Zealand 7pts
Denmark 6pts
Great Britain 5pts
France 4pts
Australia 3pts

Season Points:

Spain 16pts
Great Britain 15pts
Japan 14pts
New Zealand 13pts
France 12pts
Australia 12pts
USA 11pts
Denmark 11pts

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