The weekend’s Cowes SailGP event was a great success full of record-breaking and drama, despite unseasonably bad weather causing the racing timetable to be hit on Saturday.
After Team GB broke the 50 knots mark earlier in the week, other teams put the notch up a mark or two. Dylan Fletcher and the Great Britain team didn’t hold the record for long… Australia’s Tom Slingsby went a knot faster on Wednesday to mark the highest speed of 51.24 knots. Overall championship leader Nathan Outteridge also joined the 50-knot club when the Japanese team hit 50.37 knots.
There was certainly a rivalry between the skippers and their teams with Dylan Fletcher saying:
“The main thing is we did it (break 50 knots) first and on home waters. No one remembers who did it after”.
Slingsby was noticeably irritated at Fletcher for breaking the 50-knot barrier first…
“We weren’t on the water, and I was saying congratulations to Dylan, and then I heard them saying, ‘yeah it’s good to get one up on Tom.’ I was sitting on shore; I wasn’t allowed to go sailing and within five minutes of sailing the next day we had already broken it. We aren’t even reaching the limits of these boats, we were only in 20 knots of breeze, and we did 51 knots.”
An interesting question and answer session was followed by some early evening races on the racecourse just off Egypt Point, with Team GB winning both races. Slingsby’s Australia team was not present for practise racing as on Wednesday, after breaking Fletcher’s previously set speed record, the Australians broke the wing of their boat on the way to the dock.
Fierce rivalries have emerged in SailGP Season 1 and Cowes served as the last stage before teams contend for $1million prize in Marseille. At the top of the leaderboard, before the Cowes event, sat long-term friends and rivals Outteridge (Japan) and Slingsby (Australia) whilst Team GB were in third position.
With 6 of the F50 Foiling catamarans contesting the series over 5 rounds, Cowes was hosting the penultimate event – the first not only in the UK but the first in Europe too.
Bad weather on Saturday caused the cancellation of the race programme in Cowes so everything depended on Sunday’s 3 races. Improved weather conditions greeted the teams for the first race on Sunday with Olympic Gold Medallist and Cowes resident Shirley Robertson on commentary duty.
Race 1 was most eventful with Australia sprinting through to take the lead, but within seconds the USA had capsized and were out of contention.
A freak wave then hit the GB boat throwing trimmer Chris Draper head over heels, tumbling over Stuart Bithell in a dramatic crash. His helmet was badly dented, but he managed to hold on and hauled himself back on board. No injuries were sustained but the boat was too damaged to sail for the remainder of the day.
Australia scored a clear win with Japan second, despite bow damage. China was third.
Race 2 saw Australia jump into the lead and sail majestically on to leave China in their wake as runner up with Japan taking third. History repeated itself in Race 3 with Australia taking full control to record a hat-trick of victories. France were a surprise second with Japan next home.
During racing Tom Slingsby and the Australian team became the first crew to break the 50-knot speed barrier in sail racing. Although the Aussies dominated completely, skipper Tom Slingsby said that it was not as easy as it looked particularly in the last race.
Medals and trophy were presented to Australia by Sir Keith Mills on the SailGP stage at Egypt Point in front of a packed crowd of spectators. Members of the public really took to this event crowding not only the stand and the SailGP village, but the slipways and beach at Cowes and along to Gurnard.
Cowes SailGP 2019 Results
1st – Australia // 30pts
2nd – Japan // 25pts
3rd – China // 24pts
4th – France // 22pts
5th – United States // 18pts
6th – Great Britain // 14pts
Season 1 Leaderboard (after 4 events)
1st – Australia // 169 pts
2nd – Japan // 165 pts
3rd – United States // 123 pts
4th – Great Britain // 120 pts
5th – China // 117 pts
6th – France // 115 pts