With the first day of racing at Cowes SailGP called off due to gale force winds and rough sea states across the UK and in the Solent, all six teams competing in this inaugural season of SailGP knew that Super Sunday in Cowes would be action packed.
With winds on the Solent holding at between 18-22knots, Dylan Fletcher, Great Britain SailGP Team Helm stated before racing: “I think the hardest part is going to be that reach to run; the first bear away around the top mark. Six boats, with that forecast, we will be getting close to and possibly punching over the 50-knot mark. It’s going to be the first time all six boats are going that fast, that close together, so fingers crossed we all keep it clean and keep the rigs in the sky.”
Thousands of fans came out in force to cheer on the red, white and blue wingsailed catamaran – a packed grandstand and bustling race village welcomed the home team as they sailed just metres from the shore alongside their five rivals; Australia, China, France, Japan and United States.
Having exceeded expectations to take both wins in Thursday’s official practise racing, the pressure was on for the British to perform on home waters but the team remained level headed going into the day’s racing: “It’s going to be a big day. No doubt the more experienced teams are going to be pushing hard – there’s been a lot of chat between us and them [Australia and Japan] but I’m sure it will mean some good racing”, said Dylan.
Just seconds into the first of three scheduled fleet races, the American team were hit by a gust on the bear away and became the second team, following Great Britain in New York, to capsize the F50. Meanwhile Tom Slingsby’s Australian team stormed ahead as Dylan and team battled for second with rival Nathan Outteridge.
Having rolled the Japanese to jump into second place, the British team suffered a devastating crash, nose diving heavily into the Solent and throwing CEO and wing trimmer Chris Draper summersaulting. Thanks to the team’s tethers, Chris and the rest of the crew remained safely on board with no injuries besides bruises to show for the incident.
Sadly, the damage to the boat was enough that it meant no more racing for the home team. With damage to the fairing, a broken pedestal and hydraulic damage, the British F50 was towed from the race area while a further two races continued without them.
“We were having a fairly safe but good race and when we went bow down we just broke the boat and unfortunately the tech team weren’t able to fix it so that was us – game over for the day”, said a devastated Dylan Fletcher following the incident. “We saw in the practise races that we’re capable of winning, so we need to get our boat back together and show that in the real races.”
Tom Slingsby and his Australian crew had a storming event, winning all three Super Sunday races, breaking the 50 knot barrier during racing and gaining enough points to take the top spot on the overall standings, ahead of Japan.
With a day of no sailing in New York following their capsize and now missing two races in Cowes, the Great Britain SailGP have slid from third to fourth in the standings. Rome Kirby and his American team made a fantastic recovery to go on and race the final two races following their capsize which has pushed them up into third place ahead of the British.
A bitterly disappointing day for Dylan and his team but let’s see what the final in Marseille in September brings.
Thousands lined Cowes seafront and the SailGP Race Village to watch the European debut of SailGP
Photo credit: Georgia Schofield