Tensions heightened in front of the fan-lined Seawall as Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge went head to head on the Rade Nord racecourse at the Marseille SailGP Season 1 Grand Final. The two helmsmen traded wins ahead of the four other national teams to secure their places in the title race of the season. Following another day of fleet racing, the Australia and Japan SailGP teams will be facing off Sunday for the most substantial monetary prizes in the sport, US$1 million.
Marseille saw the most competitive racing in the season so far. Massive crowds lining the Seawall had a front-row seat to action featuring the supercharged flying F50s representing six nations. Deafening cheers erupted from local fans as Billy Besson as his French SailGP accelerated crossed the start line first in the opening race of the day.
“Not that I have made an entrance in full stadiums many times in my life, but I think that comes pretty close,” said Besson.
Outteridge’s fans also had a reason to celebrate. The Japan SailGP Team came out fighting to beat long-time friend and rival Slingsby and the Australian team, winning races one and three, and showing an aggressive side that has not been witnessed this season. Outteridge is known for his tactical superiority in tough and shifting conditions like those seen during racing today, pulling out several moves to keep Slingsby and the Australians behind.
“We know we are preparing for the match race and there is a match race within the fleet race,” said Outteridge. “We will take any opportunity to practice our match racing skills as much as possible, and you saw that today. We wanted to slow the Aussies up today and put some boats between them and us to help our points. I will do more of that tomorrow but I think Tom will come out more aggressive.”
Inflamed by race one’s outcome that saw Outteridge hold Slingsby back at the start, the Australian team came back for a spectacular win in race two, coming from behind to get the better of the Japanese team.
“Knowing him as well as I do, I didn’t think he would be that aggressive!” said Slingsby. “We were not expecting it in all honesty. I thought he was going to race his own race but good on him, he caught us a bit by surprise.”
While the two boats in the championship match race looked pre-set going into the opening day, the race for the remaining podium spot was far from determined. It was a stand-out performance for both the Great Britain and the China SailGP teams. After not finishing races in New York and Cowes, Dylan Fletcher’s Great Britain SailGP Team wanted to see the season out in style and recorded three podium positions to move up into third place overall and increase the gap from the China and United States teams.
There was drama for Rome Kirby’s young American team and his crew retired from racing due to technical issues with a foil. The team was able to return for race three, but the lack of race practice from earlier in the day saw them finish sixth.
As the overall SailGP Season 1 leaderboard stands, Australia has 197 points, leading Japan by a five-point margin. The British team has established a firm dominance on the podium with 145 points over the, now tied United States and China teams, which both have 137 points.
SailGP’s Season 1 Grand Final continues with three more fleet races planned for Saturday and two fleet races and the final match race scheduled for Sunday, with windier conditions expected. Fans are guaranteed high action and high drama when Outteridge and Slingsby come out fighting in the ultimate winner-takes-all match race for Thomas Lyte-designed SailGP Championship trophy and $1 million purse.
SailGP Season 1 Overall Leaderboard
1 // Australia // 197 pts
2 // Japan // 192 pts
3 // Great Britain // 145 pts
4 // United States // 137 pts
5 // China // 137 pts
6 // France // 135 pts
Photo Credit : Bob Martin
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