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Marseille Maelstrom Threatens Sail GP $1 Million Finale

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  • Marseille Maelstrom Threatens Sail GP $1 Million Finale

    Story by Rob Kothe Yacht Racing Life

    There is nothing like a significant sailing regatta to bring focus on the sailing conditions on a patch of water called home by thousands of sailors.The Olympic venues Sydney, Qingdao, Weymouth Rio, once again Enoshima for 2020 and next up Marseille 2024 all had a serious examination before the Olympic regattas.

    Enoshima’s July to September sequence of World Championships, Test events and World Cups showed that aspiring Tokyo 2020 Olympic Gold medallists will have to glisten in a range of conditions from 5 to 25 plus knots.
    And in the Paris 2024 sailing venue Marseille it could be very much the same.

    There is an early focus on Marseille this coming weekend with the 2019 SailGP final being sailed on the likely 2024 Medal course, with a winner takes all Million Dollar match race scheduled on Sunday afternoon, in front of Grandstand crowds on the Marseille seawall.

    Eight SailGP fleet races are scheduled to be sailed at this 2019 final. Three on Friday and Saturday, two on Sunday followed by a match racing final between the two series leaders.

    There is one serious complication, the legendary Mistral, which blows from the north, can appear as a westerly in Marseille appears commonly in September, but which can also show up in August (Olympic Games time.)

    This coming Sunday afternoon, depending on which of the weather models is considered, predictions of westerly winds averaging 25 knots or more with gusts of 40 + knots.

    Currently, Tom Slingsby’s Team Australia (170) is four points ahead of Nathan Outteridge’s Team Japan (166) with third-placed Rome Kirby’s Team USA (123) well back, but just ahead of Dylan Fletchers Team GBR (120).

    Nathan Outteridge told me last week ‘We are four points behind Team Australia going into this regatta.
    ‘The weather is very variable in Marseille, if the weather was to blow out the final day, with a Mistral or a drifter, and the match races, the series leader will get the Million dollar prize, so we have to bridge the gap in the first six races, so the pressure is very much on.’

    Given the series points gap, you’d imagine that given incident free racing Slingsby and Outteridge will be the finalists but as Kirby and Team GBR’s Chris Draper both mentioned in mid-week interviews, a serious wipe-out could take one of the two leaders out, and the third-placed boat would step up to the final. That possibility is going to make the fleet racing intense.

    An extra benefit for the season leader on points before the match racing final is, they have the right to choose which end of the line it enters the starting box, and that can be a serious pre-start advantage.
    Sir Russell Coutts in an interview with me on Monday said ‘Richard Slater has sent out an amendment that says any boat that mathematically has already qualified for the match race final does not have to compete in the final two fleet races. ‘

    The benefit of that for one of the leaders is the chance of a capsize or crash which would prevent the team from competing in the match race final is eliminated. Additionally, it ensures that SailGP’s shared services will be able to ensure the two finalists are not handicapped with any residual equipment issues.

    However, life is not meant to be simple, if there is a chance that a heavy mistral wind blows out the Million Dollar final, then the series leader will take the ‘Cake’.

    So, a second-placed boat may choose to keep racing on Sunday in building conditions in a bid to overcome a deficit.
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    5 Points Separate Slingsby And Outteridge And $1 Million

    Race 1

    The Marseille SailGP Grand Final got off to a spectacular start. Race one saw an intense start with a tightly packed fleet. The France SailGP Team was aggressive off the start line, leading the fleet into the first mark and giving the French fans lining the Seawall something to cheer about. Japan quickly upset the home town favourites, to take the lead. The United States SailGP team was forced to retire, citing technical issues with their foils, giving the French team an opportunity to hang onto the second place just on the heels on the Japan team. The second downwind leg gave the Australia SailGP Team and Great Britain SailGP Team a chance to move ahead of the French, using high boat speed to their advantage. With Slingsby on the offense, Nathan Outteridge focused on staying tactical superior and maintaining the lead, a strategy that paid off for the race one winners. Australia followed in second place, followed by the Brits, who moved up the leaderboard and one step closer to the podium.

    all images Gilles Martin Raget/

    Race 2

    After dominating the first race, Nathan Outteridge and the Japan SailGP Team had a disappointing second race of the Marseille SailGP Season 1 Grand Final, finishing at the back of the fleet in fourth, despite leading at the first mark. The France SailGP Team, helmed by Billy Besson also had an impressive showing off the start line but suffered a penalty at the first mark, putting them back of the fleet. Tom Slingsby and Phil Robertson took advantage of the Japan team's error to move ahead in the standings; the Australians first with the China SailGP Team holding second place for the majority of the race. Robertson is a fierce competitor and had one of his best performances yet on the SailGP racecourse. At the final moment before the finish, the China team suffered a penalty that allowed Dylan Fletcher and the Great Britain SailGP Team to put yet another top of the fleet finish on the leaderboard, putting them five points ahead of the United States SailGP Team for third place on the podium. The American team was unable to race and continued to work to repair their broken foil to participate in race three.

    Race 3

    The third race of first day of the SailGP Season 1 Grand Final in Marseille saw increased tensions between Tom Slingsby's Australian team and Nathan Outteridge's Japan team. Outteridge and Slingsby were quick off the start line and continued to battle closely at the top of the fleet throughout the race. Fans cheered as the two teams traded the first-place position. It was Outteridge who ultimately dominated race three, running away with the lead into the final windward gate, Australia followed for second place. Race three is Outteridge's second first-place finish of the day. Dylan Fletcher and the Great Britain SailGP Team finished third and continued to put points on the board to pull ahead of the United States SailGP Team. Rome Kirby's United States SailGP Team battled technical issues on the water forcing him to retire from the first two races of the day, without the practice of the first two races, the Americans couldn't put the pieces together for the third race and ended up at the back of the fleet behind France and then China.

    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


    • #3
      I take it there will be no miracle comeback for Team USA?


      • #4
        A Moist Day In Marseille

        Race 4

        Gusty and shifty conditions on Marseille’s racecourse challenged competitors during Race 4 of the Marseille SailGP Season 1 Grand Final. French helmsman Billy Besson and Phil Robertson of China were first off the start line. France held onto the lead into mark one, while the British struggled for boat speed at the back of the fleet. Rome Kirby of the United States had an impressive start to race four, leading Australias Tom Slingsby at the first mark.

        The French team continued its lead downwind to the first leeward gate, with China following closely behind. There was a close moment between China and France at the first leeward gate but Besson pushed to round the leeward gate in first.

        all images © gilles Raget-martin /

        By Gate 3 there was a shakeup of the fleet, Outteridge climbed from third into the top two ahead of the China team.

        French fans went wild for the home team, who led for more than half the race, Japan and China following closely. While France worked to maintain their boat speed, a port-starboard interaction forced Besson to aggressively duck behind Outteridge on Leg 3 upwind into windward mark.

        Ahead of the French, Japan moved into lead, while Slingsby’s tactical decisions allowed Australia to climb from the back of the fleet into third. Australia sailed 265 meters less than Japan on leg three.

        Japan, Australia and France converged on the windward gate, Outteridge and Besson chose the left side of the course, while Slingsby went to the right. The decision paid off for Outteridge who extended his lead into gate four, followed by Besson.

        The final leg of race four shocked audiences as Australia used their upwind advantage to move into the first place, after Japan lost their boat speed on a bad maneuver. Robertson and his China team saw an opportunity to move into the top three, crossing the line third in front of the French.

        At the back of the fleet, America's Rome Kirby and Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher were neck and neck but ultimately it was the United States who claimed fifth.

        Race 5

        Japan led off the start line of race five, with China and France challenging just behind the leader. Slingsby was noticeably less aggressive, starting Saturday's second race in last place.

        Phil Robertson and the China SailGP Team were on a mission, leading at the first gate followed by Japan and Australia, who redeemed a disappointing start.

        Robertson used his match race prowess on the water today, staying ahead of the two top teams. In an intense moment, Outteridge was forced to cross behind China at the first top gate, putting the F50s windward hull just over the stern of Robertson's boat.

        Robertson and Slingsby moved into a significant lead over the rest of the fleet on leg 4. Robertson handily extended his dominant position over the fleet to score China's first ever SailGP race win, ahead of Slingsby.

        Recognized as the most improved boat in the fleet by Slingsby, this was Robertson's first race win of SailGP and is a sweet victory for fans of the Chinese team.

        Race 6

        Eager to redeem his back of the fleet finish in race 5, Rome Kirby and the American team led off the start line and into the first mark of race six. Outteridge followed by only four seconds, then Australia, France, China and finally Great Britain.

        Gate two saw Australia move into the top position, and Japan into second. Slingsby owned the lead from the first leeward gate, leaving Japan more than 30 seconds behind.

        Winds died off after the first bottom mark rounding, putting Outteridge on the offense, looking for shifts and gusts on the water to put them at an advantage and move ahead of the Australians.

        At mark three, France, Australia, and the United States were parked so tightly; the skippers could’ve reached out and touched their competitors’ boat.

        As the wind shut off, it was a drift race to the finish, with the top five boats concentrating hard to generate as much boat speed as possible out of their F50s.

        With Outteridge’s reputation for finding wind in frustrating conditions, it’s no surprise that the Japan SailGP Team took the win for race six. Slingsby finished second, while France overtook China just before the finish. China and Britain are now tied for the third place, and France and the United States are tied for fourth. All to play for on the final day of Marseille SailGP Season 1 Grand Final.

        " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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