At the conclusion of the SailGP season

At the conclusion of the SailGP season


“With the support of nature,” El eslogan de ailGP says, it is a “favorite” podría haber contado gran parte de story.

After all, how many other sports that culminated in the season, a no less than a million-dollar race, were delayed by a whale on the track?

After floating in the particularly choppy waters of San Francisco Bay while waiting for Moby-Dick to clear up, crews from Australia, Japan and the United States, filled with Olympic medalists and World Cup veterans, are finally starting their careers.

Or rather Australia did. They are the only ones among the finalists to find an early tempo and escape, never to be caught, as the three high-tech, fast F50 boats struggle to find a handy breeze. The Americans, in particular, struggled in their pursuit, crawling toward the far bend in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge like a small car crawling over slightly uneven ground, like a sick cat in slow motion. cat and mouse chase

It was an adverse, albeit still dramatic, outcome for the second edition of the series that would be determined more precisely by the carnage of fleet races later in the day.

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Capable of reaching speeds in excess of 50 knots (just under 60 mph), the eight boats are crammed into a relatively small course with penalties for overstepping their limits and competing in a series of fast, uphill races, each just over a quarter hour long.

“I don’t think sailing has had a marketable and observable product before these frustrating high-speed boats,” says Russell Coates, CEO of 1984 Olympic gold medalist Sail GP. “What the hell is going on here?!” Now it is more understandable to the general public.

Overtaking, accidents and controversies abound. At one point, our media boat was separated to cross the Gulf to pick up Spanish pilot Jordi Zammar, as his F50 was badly damaged after colliding with the Americans. Piper is only driving the boat after the team effectively rebelled against its former leader, Phil Robertson, on Thursday, with the New Zealander accused of calling his Spanish teammates a “group of kids”.

As he perched in the back of our boat, muttering to himself as he vigorously chewed a candy box, Xammar was filmed behind the scenes for Drive To Survive-style content, sailing, like many alternative sports, looking for the kind of grace bestowed upon Formula 1 Through the success of Netflix.

The league has also been influenced by how the NBA is marketing its fourth quarter, knowing that changing viewing habits means fewer people are settling in to watch entire games. As a result, each race weekend ends with a singles three-team final that takes place regardless of what went before, and the previous races are mainly there for qualifying purposes.

And in the end, the cream undoubtedly rises; Here, the old fantasy of putting all F1 drivers on the grid in the same car has become a reality, with all eight boats built symmetrically to one another. Innovation is encouraged, but at the end of each weekend, F50s are meticulously reviewed and improvements are implemented across the fleet.

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It is not only about performance, but also durability. The British crew, for example, shows us how they came up with a Velcro alternative to end the use of zip ties now added to all of their competitors’ ships.

The arrival of the Impact League, which ranks each team’s sustainability efforts and won by New Zealand, added an element of competition, but the athletes themselves needed a little encouragement, particularly to support causes related to ocean conservation.

“It’s a great environment and most people don’t see what we see,” Coates says.

Many are full-time vegetarians or follow a meat-free diet on occasion (a New Zealand team member tells us he eats meat sometimes “but only when I kill it myself”).

“We’re by no means perfect,” Coates quickly adds. “There are a lot of things we need to improve.

“One of the things we’re not good at right now and one of our goals for trying to speed up is the transition to clean energy. One thing we haven’t discovered yet, for example, is that the search boats and safety boats of the F50s are powered by fossil-fuel engines.”

However, important steps have been taken elsewhere. A broadcast that less than a decade ago saw 28 containers shipped around the world for the America’s Cup now relies on just one, while the rest of the production is handled remotely from Ealing studios in London.

Similar progress will be needed to offset what the league hopes for continued growth. Next year, the field will grow to ten teams with the addition of crews from Canada and Switzerland and ten races.

Ultimately, SailGP is expected to become a bi-monthly cycle during the season, more in line with F1 regularity than its current, slightly choppy schedule.

This is, of course, if the whales of the world are playing ball.

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