Saint-Tropez, France (September 11, 2021) – The 2021 SailGP season has had more than its share of light winds and the opening day of the France Sail Grand Prix continued that theme as light-winds saw the eight national teams reduced to three crew for the fifth event of season two.
Jimmy Spithill and the U.S. team put in an impressive performance to claim two race victories as the U.S. team finished the day at the top of the leaderboard, three points ahead of Peter Burling’s consistent New Zealand SailGP Team in second. Phil Robertson’s Spain SailGP Team rounded out the top three heading into tomorrow a further point behind and tied on even points with Nathan Outteridge’s Japan team.
After an early onslaught of unfortunate spills, crashes, and technical issues at the start of Season 2, the United States SailGP Team has seemingly pushed through the worst of times by posting a 5-1-1.
Adding to its spectacular performance was the rapid return of the team’s injured wing trimmer, Paul Campbell-James. After a speedy, three-week recovery from a leg fracture – inflicted during an on-water maneuver at the recent ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix – Campbell-James was back onboard, alongside Andrew Campbell.
“I was fairly pleased with the results today,” said Spithill. “The first one not so much, but the last two I thought CJ (Paul Campbell-James) and Andrew (Campbell) did a really good job. It was pretty incredible actually to see CJ running across the boat just weeks after snapping his fibula.
“We’ve had some changes to our current line-up. Rome Kirby is out for this event so Taylor Canfield has come in as our interim flight controller, but for the three-man position, we put Andrew Campbell in as tactician. Along with doing multiple roles, he did a great job today, especially for his first time.
“For us now it’s just one race at a time and if we can get through this event without damaging something, sinking, or breaking another bone it will be fantastic!”
Heading into the final race day tomorrow, Spithill will be looking to solidify a spot for the U.S. in the podium final, with his eyes set on winning the team’s first event of the season.
Allaying doubts about the team’s competitive drive, the New Zealand team – with Burling in the driving seat – demonstrated the most consistent performance of the day with a fourth and two third place finishes. Driving the Kiwis toward its first ever podium race tomorrow, Burling and his team were undeterred by the penalties received in the opening race, and put in a steady series across the remaining two races.
“I wouldn’t say we had a consistent day; we gave ourselves plenty of opportunities but made a lot of mistakes as well,” Burling remarked. “It would be much better to have more points on the scoreboard.
“We’ve got our strengths, but it would have been good to have the extra crew on board to make life a little bit easier. I think there’s a couple of boats that have an advantage with three up, definitely Jimmy (Spithill) and also Nathan (Outteridge).
“But, we are really excited by the challenges, we just haven’t had much time as a group, but we feel like we are doing a really good job of learning and improving. Even to be sailing three up today compared to the conditions we had in Denmark and how we sailed there, is already a stark improvement. So, we are really happy with that and we are just trying to keep on that steep learning curve.”
For the home team favorites it was a disappointing day and despite encouragement from the cheering crowds, Billy Besson’s French team struggled to put solid scores on the leaderboard and ended the day one off the bottom spot. However, the team remains positive and determined to delight the home fans in Saint-Tropez.
Another team that surprisingly struggled in the light airs was Ben Ainslie’s British team. Despite coming out strong to take the first win of the day, the British team couldn’t keep its form and finished the day in fifth.
Also frustrated was the overall season leader – Tom Slingsby’s Australia team – who was plagued with technical problems that saw it spend most of the day without instruments, resulting in an eighth place finish at the end of the day.
All the action returns tomorrow for the final two fleet races determining who will battle it out in the three-boat podium final race to be crowned winner of the France Sail Grand Prix.
Day One Results (3 races)
1. United States, 20 pts
2. New Zealand, 17 pts
3. Spain, 16 pts
4. Japan, 16 pts
5. Great Britain, 13 pts
6. Denmark, 12 pts
7. France, 7 pts
8. Australia, 7 pts
The France Sail Grand Prix Saint-Tropez will air live on September 11-12 at 7:30am EDT on SailGP’s YouTube channel and the SailGP APP. Delayed full broadcast coverage of both days will air September 12 on CBS Sports at 5:30pm EDT (Race Day 1) and 10:00pm EDT (Race Day 2).
SailGP Season Championship (after 4 events)
1. Australia, 32 pts
2. Great Britain, 30 pts
3. Japan, 28 pts
4. United States, 26 pts
5. France, 24 pts
6. New Zealand, 23 pts
7. Spain, 23 pts
8. Denmark, 22 pts
Format for SailGP events:
• Teams compete in identical F50 catamarans.
• Each event runs across two days.
• There are three races on each day, totaling six races at each event.
• The opening five fleet races involve every team.
• The final match race pits the three highest ranking teams against each other to be crowned event champion.
• The season ends with the Grand Final, which includes the Championship Final Race – a winner-takes-all match race for the $1m prize.
SailGP Season 2 Schedule*
April 24-25, 2021 – Bermuda Grand Prix
June 5-6, 2021 – Italy Grand Prix – Taranto
July 17-18, 2021 – Great Britain Grand Prix – Plymouth
August 20-21, 2021 – ROCKWOOL Denmark Grand Prix – Aarhus
September 11-12, 2021 – France Grand Prix – Saint-Tropez
October 9-10, 2021 – Spain Grand Prix – Andalusia
December 17-18, 2021 – Australia Grand Prix – Sydney
January 29-30, 2022 – New Zealand Grand Prix – Christchurch (CANCELLED)
March 26-27, 2022 – United States Grand Prix – San Francisco (Season 2 Grand Final)
*Subject to change
2021-22 Teams, Helm
Australia, Tom Slingsby
Denmark, Nicolai Sehested
France, Billy Besson
Great Britain, Ben Ainslie (alternate – Paul Goodison)
Japan, Nathan Outteridge
New Zealand, Peter Burling (alternate – Arnaud Psarofaghis)
Spain, Jordi Xammar (alternate – Phil Robertson)
United States, Jimmy Spithill
Established in 2018, SailGP seeks to be an annual, global sports league featuring fan-centric inshore racing in some of the iconic harbors around the globe. Rival national teams compete in identical F50 catamarans with the season culminating with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race.