SailGP Season 4 got underway in Chicago with tight racing and only a handful of points separating the top four teams at the end of the day. It was a continuation of last season’s form for Australia and New Zealand, with Canada and Rockwool Denmark also showing great skills in managing the fleet in shifty breeze.
Starting cleanly was the name of the game, with teams starting inside the wall looking for a clean run at the line to carry the highest possible speed into mark one. Pete Burling and the New Zealand team brought a different starting strategy to the one they finished season 3 with, looking for the late hook into the line to secure a spot. Australia showed in race two just how fine the margins are, not able to wipe enough speed of and having to bail out of the start and dropping to last place.
While the leading three or four teams in each race were able to sail to their own plans, back in the fleet the shifty conditions across the course made for passing opportunities, especially to capitalise on other teams’ mistakes.
Newcomers the Germany SailGP Team showed they are ready to compete with strong mid-field performances across the three races of the day. A few key boat handling errors were all that kept them from pushing the top end of the leaderboard in a showing that will be keeping the other teams with one eye on the new team.
The USA Team struggled to settle into the home event, with errors leaving them with a ninth, tenth and sixth place in the day’s races, and ninth place overall. Driver Jimmy Spithill was optimistic about the day though.
“We had three races where we were in great positions, every time we were in the top three at mark one. The guys did a great job getting off the line well unfortunately we just couldn’t execute a few key maneuvers and as soon as you crash down in a maneuver like that you can go from the front to the back.”
Rockwool Denmark are just three points outside the top three and a place in tomorrow’s final. “The last race was good, we finally got in the groove. It was very shifty out there and it took us a little while to get into it. Second place is good to finish the day with a bit of positivity.” Driver Nicolai Sehested said.
The forecast for Saturday is for lighter breeze, which leaves everything to sail for. Clear air will be key so look for added pressure in the starts as teams look to round mark one with the fleet behind them. The strategists will be under pressure to find any advantage they can, and boat on boat maneuvers will matter even more.
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