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Ocean Safety 2021 - LEADERBOARD

SailGP racing, TOR Europe update, Olympic sailing news

by David Schmidt 8 Jun 16:00 BST June 8, 2021
The entire fleet sail close together as they practice ahead of racing on Race Day 1. Italy SailGP, Event 2, Season 2 in Taranto, Italy. 05 June © Ricardo Pinto / SailGP

While this past weekend was cool, overcast and punctuated with bits of rain here in the Pacific Northwest - no doubt throwing some interesting meteorological conditions at the adventure racers who assembled for the Northwest Maritime Center's third edition of the SEVENTY48 race - things were plenty hot in other corners of the sailing world.

For starters, the SailGP fleet of F50 catamarans put on quite a show on the waters off of Taranto, Italy, where the fully professional race circuit held its second big event of 2021 on June 5-6. Eight teams competed aboard identical foilers, scoring three fleet races on Saturday and two on Sunday, in addition to Sunday's finals. Light winds on Saturday, and again on Sunday for the finals, saw the boats racing with three-person crews to facilitate foiling in the light airs, while Sunday's two fleet races saw teams racing with five sailors.

Skipper Jimmy Spithill and his United States SailGP team sailed brilliantly, winning two of the three fleet races on Saturday and posting a second-place finish in the first of Sunday's races, but the team hit an unidentified object and suffered a broken rudder that forced them to drop out of the final race.

"Extremely tough way to end it," said Spithill in a media release. "We were really sailing a perfect race, and all we had to do was round the mark and head to the finish. Now I know how a Formula 1 driver feels when you have two corners to go, and you have an engine fail. You can't control having a significant impact under the water."

This meant that skipper Nathan Outteridge and his Japan SailGP team took home top honors.

"With three people onboard you don't have much time to look at the competition, but when the United States wiped out it was a really easy decision to tack straight away and that effectively won us the race," said Outteridge of the final winner-takes-all race that saw Japan SailGP Team square off against the United States SailGP Team and the Spain SailGP Team. "There wasn't really a perfect race this weekend, but sometimes you have to get lucky and take it. And we'll thank Jimmy Spithill for that one!"

Astute readers will of course remember that the Japan SailGP Team and the United States SailGP Team suffered a collision (the Yanks were on starboard) at the Bermuda SailGP event (April 24-25) earlier this season.

We at Sail-World congratulate Outteridge and his Japan SailGP Team for a great win in Italy, and we hope that Spithill and company enjoy some better luck at the next SailGP events, the first of which (Great Britain Sail Grand Prix) is set to unfurl between July 17-18 on the waters off of Plymouth.

Meanwhile, in offshore sailing news, Sunday also saw the racing action continue at The Ocean Race Europe (May 29-June 19), where fully crewed teams are racing aboard IMOCA 60s (five teams) and VO65s (seven teams) from the stage race's start in Lorient, France, to its finish in Genova, Italy. This weekend, the fleet raced 700 nautical miles from Cascais, Portugal to Alicante, Spain in a weather window that has been described as "windy and wild" (especially in the Strait of Gibraltar).

"We are in the Strait of Gibraltar and are actually on the Moroccan coast and currently Sailing Poland is in the lead so that's quite nice but it has been very, very windy," said Bouwe Bekking, skipper of Sailing Poland, in an official release.

"We saw up to 46 knots," he continued. "Right now, the breeze is going down a little bit but it is still a stiff 30 knots. Battling with Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team just behind us and then the IMOCA LinkedOut is just a little bit further offshore and AkzoNobel Ocean Racing has crossed to the other side so we have to see how it is all panning out in the next 10-12 hours."

As of this writing, Sailing Poland is still topping the leaderboard of the VO65 fleet, followed by Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team and AkzoNobel Ocean Racing, while the IMOCA 60 fleet is being led by LinkedOut, CORUM L'Épargne, and Offshore Team Germany. But with 265 and 272 nautical miles (respectively) still remaining for both fleets (again, as of the time of this writing), there's still plenty of opportunities for leaderboard upsets by the time the finishing guns begin sounding.

The weekend was also a busy one for Olympic class sailors who were competing at the Hempel World Cup Series—Allianz Regatta, which unfurled on the waters off of the Dutch city of Medemblik.

While this was an important regatta for sailors who are headed to the Summer Olympics (July 23-August 8, 2021), North American sailors saw mixed results. Paige Railey (USA) finished in 15th place and Maura Dewey (CAN) finished in 33rd in the Laser Radial class (now called the "ILCA 6" class), while Charlie Buckingham (USA) finished in 17th place in the Laser class (now called "ILCA 7") and James Juhasz (CAN) finished 44th. The best result from a North American sailor was posted by Pedro Pascual (USA), who took home a fifth-place finish in the Men's RS:X class.

Finally, and much closer to home, this week marks the beginning of the Northwest Maritime Center's WA360. This inaugural event, which could likely prove to be an annual affair, is serving as a placeholder this year for the Northwest Maritime Center's Race to Alaska, which sadly had to be cancelled due to the still-closed U.S.-Canadian border. Much like the bigger R2AK, racers can sail (or paddle) any kind of vessel they like, so long as it doesn't have an engine.

The course begins off of Port Townsend, Washington, and takes the fleet down to a buoy off of Olympia, then up to the Bellingham area before taking a hitch over to Point Roberts, and, finally, back to the finishing line off of Port Townsend. Check out my interview with race boss Daniel Evens.

Sail-World wishes all WA360 racers good luck and safe passage, and we certainly hope that 2022 will see the return of the much-loved R2AK.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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