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Sports: What’s SailGP and why is it Singapore’s next big sporting event?

Singapore may have made a name for itself with the first ever Formula 1 Night Race, still going strong since 2008. But now that they’ve torn up the asphalt track with race cars, it’s time to take to the seas, as world-renowned sailing tournament SailGP arrives in Singapore for the first time this weekend.

Powered by Nature™, SailGP is adrenaline-fueled racing as rival teams go head-to-head in iconic venues across the globe for a winner-takes-all prize. Singapore marks the eighth leg of SailGP’s eleven-stop global championship. The nine teams competing in Singapore on 14 and 15 January are Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. These teams will battle it out on identical, high-tech hydrofoiling F50 catamarans. 

But how exactly does SailGP work?

Most information is available here, but we’ve prepared a tl;dr version for you:

The race held in Singapore this weekend continues Season 3 of Sail GP, marking its 8th stop since starting at Bermuda in May 2022. This round follows on from Round 7, which was held in Dubai in November 2022, before heading to Sydney, Australia in February.

Three fleet races are held over each day, making for a total of six fleet races, where all participating teams race to complete the course first, garnering them a certain number of points. Each fleet race lasts about 15 minutes. At the end of the six fleet races, the top 3 teams of the Round’s fleet races with the most points face off in The Final, where the winner is crowned SailGP champion for the Round, and win USD $1million.

All teams are on equal ground, in that they use identical, high-tech hydrofoiling F50 catamarans, leaving performances and results directly in the hands of the sail teams. The F50 was the first boat to hit 92.6 km/h (50 knots/57.5 mph) during racing and has a predicted top speed of over 100 km/h (54 knots/62 mph).

Racing is intended to be on windward (upwind) and leeward (downwind) courses. The course may have both its position and length altered depending on the weather conditions during events. One of the most intense parts of a SailGP race is right at the start, as the first leg takes the boats on one of the fastest points in sailing, a reach, to the first mark, or the speed mark. From there, the boats begin heading to the leeward gate at the bottom of the course, and once a boat has passed through it starts heading upwind to the windward gate at the top of the course. The boats repeat the journey to the leeward gate once they have passed through the windward gate, and then continue racing this course until the designated number of laps have been completed, before heading to the finish line.

A total of nine teams are competing in this season, led by drivers Tom Slingsby (Australia), Phil Robertson (Canada), Nicolai Sehested (Denmark), Quentin Delapierre (France), Ben Ainslie (Great Britain), Peter Burling (New Zealand), Jordi Xammar (Spain), Sébastien Schneiter and Nathan Outteridge (Switzerland) and Jimmy Spithill (United States).

The number of crew members per team competing depends on the windspeed of each event, with a minimum of three and maximum of six crew onboard. These team makeups are also bound by Nationality Rules in a bid to make the racing fairer and more competitive, and must include a certain number of crew members from the team’s home country.

Much of the focus remains on the Australia SailGP Team led by Tom Slingsby, who hold a commanding lead in the championship season after a remarkable come from behind win at the last SailGP event in Dubai last November.

Slingsby believes the Australian team had ridden a mix of skill and good fortune to the top of the standings. “I wouldn’t say it’s been a consistent season for us. For sure we’ve had a couple of events I’d describe as lucky, and in others the team has sailed really well in important times when we looked like we were down and out, in particular Dubai and Chicago,” he says. “I see that as a great effort by our team, performing under pressure and a bit of luck, ultimately that’s sport. We’ve been on the right end of a few calls this season and that’s put us in a good position heading into Singapore.” 

Starting the weekend in a more challenging position is the defending champion’s closest rival New Zealand, with driver Peter Burling left regretting contact with the United States in training that will see his team start the weekend on minus four points and receiving two penalty points in the season standings.

Burling said: “It’s a frustrating one but it’s going to be a long weekend so we’re just looking forward to putting our best foot forward and making the most of it. The rules are the rules and you’ve got to play to them. We get such a short amount of time to practice here that you really need to make the most of it, and you can make mistakes through that.”

There will be a familiar face returning to the field this weekend as Great Britain strategist Hannah Mills makes her comeback three months after giving birth to her first child, daughter Sienna. Great Britain driver Sir Ben Ainslie said it had given a huge boost to the team to see the most decorated Olympic female sailor of all time return to the fold.

Ainslie said: “To have Hannah back with the team is a really big deal for us, she’s a once in a generation sailor and I’m really impressed that she’s back just three months after giving birth, Yesterday we were sailing four up and she was on the handles and giving great feedback on the strategy.” 

With the race being held in Singapore for the first time, much of the talk between the drivers was wondering who best can handle the new environment of the Singapore race course. 

United States driver Jimmy Spithill said: “It’s an amazing venue here in Singapore. It looks like an incredible city, a great setup for fans – I expect to get a lot of people turning up to enjoy the racing. I’m not sure there can really be a favorite in these conditions, but we should take some confidence because we’ve shown that we can compete at this level in these lighter conditions. When you see some teams like the Aussies having an advantage once the conditions get a little windy, in the lighter air it seems like that’s gone and everyone is on the same level.” 

The SailGP team technical bases will be housed at the Changi Exhibition Centre, where SailGP athletes and shore teams prepare the high-tech F50 race boats for battle at East Coast Park. Lucky ticket holders of the sold-out Tech Base Tours will enjoy a rare peek into what happens behind the scenes of a SailGP race, and get to catch the elite athletes of SailGP and their cutting-edge, wing-sailed boats up close.

Marking the first race of a three year deal in the city-state, fans can expect the same close to shore racing that is a hallmark of SailGP globally over this weekend. Spectators wanting a unique experience can opt to purchase tickets for the SailGP Beach Club. Located on the beach at Parkland Green, East Coast Park, ticket holders can enjoy a completely new vibe to watch the battles on the water play out in front of them. With an unobstructed view, gazebo shading, dedicated screens, an all-inclusive food and drinks package, it is the ultimate place to experience the fast-paced action.

Photo Credit: SailGP

SailGP takes place from 14th to 15th January 2023 on the beach at Parkland Green, East Coast Park. Racing starts at 2.00pm local time across both days, and the Festival Village opens from 1.00pm to 5.00pm. Tickets and more information available here

1 comment on “Sports: What’s SailGP and why is it Singapore’s next big sporting event?

  1. Pingback: Sports: SailGP’s Champions For Change sustainability programme promises “More Speed, Less Plastic” – Bakchormeeboy

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