Please select your home edition
The Cruising Village 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Next stop, Plymouth

by France SailGP Team 15 Jul 14:51 BST
France SailGP team - Helmsman : Billy Besson © Eloi Stichelbaut

We're bound for England's south-west coast for the third SailGP event, the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix.

Indeed, on 17 and 18 July, Plymouth will play host to 8 international teams and their supersonic F50s. It's a summery stopover that promises to be full-on given how honed the crews are and how closely matched they are in the overall ranking. The French team is very much in the match. In the land of Shakespeare, their best theatrical monologues are at the ready as they attempt to step up and play the lead in this third act of the season.

As was the case in 2019, SailGP is stopping off on England's shores. This time though, it won't be in Cowes but rather in Plymouth, 260 km further west. Plymouth, a city steeped in maritime culture and an important Royal Navy base, was also the birthplace of the Ostar, the first-ever singlehanded transatlantic race, which often goes by the name of the "Transat Anglaise" in France and, following French legend Eric Tabarly's victory in 1964, acted as a catalyst for France's genuine passion for singlehanded offshore racing...

Of course the SailGP is a far cry from the notion of a long upwind passage to Newport. However, the event is no less emblematic of its age: that of foils and very high speeds.

A great stretch of water to put on a show

This coming weekend, Plymouth's protected sound will take centre stage in what promises to be an eventful act. For Leigh McMillan, the British wing trimmer on the French boat, it will be like sailing on home waters... almost.

"I've only actually sailed in Plymouth once before and I think that was 20 years ago! The race zone is very close to shore so to my mind we can expect a very shifty wind both in terms of direction and strength. Such conditions are conducive to action-packed racing, opening up opportunities out on the water and chances to overtake... It's going to be great for the racing and the show!"

In fact, the weather and strategy are a key focus for the Frenchies after their disappointment in Taranto (7th). "In Italy, we were still concentrating on the boat handling and making good speed, explains Leigh. However, in such light wind conditions, we may not have paid enough attention to the racing itself. As such, we missed a number of opportunities out on the water".

Billy Besson, helm on the French F50, drives the point home: "We really need to pull our finger out! This is especially true in the drawing up of strategies according to the different wind scenarios after the start. We need a plan A, B and C. The whole crew is called on. Everyone on-board has to be on the same wavelength when apprehending the field of play, be on the alert according to how things develop and have an eye on what's happening outside the boat. On a technical level, we're beginning to feel liberated and have the sense that we can do what we want with the boat. However, hunting down pressure in the light airs is fundamental. These boats are wind machines! If you have two knots more breeze, you really go a lot faster..."

Right now, the 7-day weather forecast is indicating light winds for Saturday and Sunday, which could result in fairly similar conditions to those encountered in Italy, or it may even entail a configuration with three crew aboard the F50s.

The points differential is peanuts

The great thing about the SailGP ranking after two acts is that no hierarchy has formed as yet. There are only 5 points between the Danish in last place and the Spanish, who have been surprisingly consistent, in the top spot. "The standard is incredibly high, agrees Leigh. The circuit has generated a great deal of interest over the past two years. All the top sailors have been keen to be a part of it. There aren't many of the big names in sailing missing from the scoresheet! The upshot of that is a massive challenge and a stunning level of competition. Every mistake you make out on the water is systematically penalised".

Billy Besson echoes this sentiment: "What's very interesting is the fact that not one of the three boats that made the final in Bermuda managed to repeat the performance in Taranto: there's a massive crossover and you really have to battle hard to make the top 3. It's virtually a fresh start after two events".

The English on home waters, the French "going all out"

Second on the leader board, one point shy of the Spanish leaders, the British, who were unlucky out on the football field on Sunday, will likely be spurred on by the desire for a little revenge match in their nautical arena, in front of a home crowd, even in the absence of their iconic skipper Ben Ainslie (Paul Goodison stepping up as replacement).

Astern of them, there is still just one point separating the Japanese (3rd), the New Zealanders (4th) and the French in 5th position.

Billy Besson, François Morvan, Leigh McMillan, Matthieu Vandame, Olivier Herledant, Timothé Lapauw, Amélie Riou and Hélène Noesmoen are hitting the road to England today. After getting a feel for their boat again during the early part of the week, Thursday and Friday will be devoted to training races.

The team will naturally be going all out to bring their A game and a podium place. "We're going to have to push the envelope and revise down our safety margin, especially during the start phases. We're so eager to get out sailing on these boats though that we'll be going all out on this one!" concludes Billy.

Related Articles

Great Britain Sail Grand Prix Highlights Video
All the highlights from a thrilling weekend of racing in Britain's Ocean City of Plymouth All the highlights from a thrilling weekend of racing in Britain's Ocean City of Plymouth. Posted on 20 Jul
Great Britain Sail Grand Prix overall
Slingsby completes return to form with win in front of sold out crowds Thousands of fans turned up on Plymouth Hoe, and hundreds of spectator boats lined the F50 racecourse in Plymouth Sound as the sold out Great Britain Sail Grand Prix closed on a high note in Britain's Ocean City. Posted on 18 Jul
Great Britain Sail Grand Prix day 1
Rivalries reignited as Plymouth hosts thousands of spectators Record numbers of fans turned out to watch the world's most exciting racing on water from Plymouth Hoe on what was the perfect British summer day both on and off the water. Posted on 17 Jul
2021 Great Britain Sail Grand Prix
The world's most exciting racing on water Plymouth Sound, the natural amphitheater of Britain's Ocean City, is set for the world's most exciting racing on water as the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix - the third event of SailGP Season 2 - takes place this weekend. Posted on 17 Jul
Zara Tindall joins France SailGP Team in Plymouth
Three-Day Eventing Olympian trades horse power for wind power Today Musto ambassador Zara Tindall joined the France SailGP Team out on the water for a unique sailing experience in Plymouth. Posted on 15 Jul
SailGP Inspire candidates announced
32 Inspire Racing candidates selected for skills showcase on foiling WASZPs and RS Feva class With less than a week to go, activities in and around the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix are ramping up with local youth taking center stage. Posted on 15 Jul
SailGP - first sport to integrate positive impact
A world-first, integrated initiative designed to make sustainability action essential SailGP announced the launch of the Impact League - a world-first, integrated initiative designed to make sustainability action essential to the fabric of sport and to accelerate the transition to clean energy, in order to help mitigate climate change. Posted on 14 Jul
SailGP announces Adopt-a-Club program - Plymouth
Eight nation teams partner with eight local clubs to support youth sailing programs in Plymouth SailGP announces the third installment of its Adopt-a-Club program - Plymouth, U.K., initiating partnerships with sailing clubs and local organizations including Plymouth Youth Sailing, Mount Batten Centre, Horizons (Plymouth). Posted on 13 Jul
Ocean Conservation Trust partners with SailGP
Hosting a series of experiences virtually, in the SailGP Official Spectator Area and across Plymouth The Ocean Conservation Trust (OCT) is proud to announce it is partnering with SailGP - the sport's pinnacle league - to host a series of experiences virtually, in the SailGP Official Spectator Area and across Plymouth. Posted on 10 Jul
Great Britain Sail Grand Prix - Two weeks to go
Britain's Ocean City, Plymouth, is famed for its rich maritime history The wait is finally over. SailGP, the most competitive racing on water, will come to Britain's Ocean City, Plymouth, on 17-18 July 2021 for the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix. Posted on 4 Jul