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May 8, 2023

SailGP Team Australia Completes the Three-peat!

The Mubadala SailGP season finale provided all the thrills, spills and action worthy of a world-class event that concluded with the Australians again winning the championship, for the third time in a row, in front of a sold-out crowd on the San Francisco Cityfront.

Team Australia celebrates another SailGP Championship, winning not only the weekend, but the season as well!!
© 2023 Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

It was an all-“Empire” final race on a weekend when Great Britain crowned a new king, but it was Australia, Emirates Team GBR (still getting used to that one) and New Zealand that put it all on the line and in the water when it counted, and in turn delivered a rousing final race, which concluded with the Aussies soaked in champagne … again!

SailGP Grand Final start
The start of the podium race among Emirates Team GBR, New Zealand and Australia.
© 2023 Mark Reid

In a dramatic final leg, the Australians fell off their foils just enough to give New Zealand a shot at a dramatic last-gasp pass, which almost happened! But …

“It was bad that this was going through my mind so close to the finish, that I can’t believe we are going to lose it from here and choke like this in front of all of these people watching around the world,” said Slingsby, who was part of the Oracle Team USA’s dramatic America’s Cup comeback victory a decade ago and is a co-helmsman of the New York Yacht Club’s Quantum American Magic team. “We had such a comfortable lead at that point so I thought I would shut down the race and do an extra maneuver to make sure they don’t get different wind. In the end they didn’t really get better wind, but they were foiling out of their tacks a bit better than we were and they were gaining and gaining. Fortunately, we were [able] to hold the tack in our last maneuver and just hold on until the finish.”

SailGP Photo Finish
Tom Slingsby and the Aussies pimp the Kiwis at the finish line.
© 2023 Mark Reid

“In hindsight, I would have sailed that last leg very differently; I just didn’t react to the changing conditions as quickly as I could have,” said Slingsby. “But on that last leg the wind really died off. It was really a solid steady breeze the entire race, but then on that last upwind it started flaking out and it was getting a bit more patchy.”

“The Aussies sailed a brilliant race. They put a hook on us at the start, which slowed us up, then we had a big crashdown at the leeward gate and that was it for us,” said Sir Ben Ainslie, ETGBR’s CEO and skipper. “Unfortunately, we sailed a bad race. Certainly, when we needed a good one, we couldn’t put it together, which was frustrating.”

Sold out SailGP
Another sold-out Mubadala SailGP in San Francisco.
© 2023 Mark Reid

“The league is growing in popularity and the racing is getting tighter and tighter,” said Ainslie. “It is an incredible achievement when you consider the one-design elements of the boats.”

“We’re gutted; we were battling all weekend and we were so close at the first mark, we only needed another meter to get over his bow. We felt like we were sailing around the course all day really well; we just ended up making some big errors here and there,” said New Zealand skipper Peter Burling. “When we are sailing well, we are pretty hard to beat. We got ourselves back within a half meter from winning it, so losing it was pretty tough to swallow, but I am really proud of the way we sailed in the last part of the race.”

“I have been sayng for years that I believe that Australia has the best sailors in the world. It’s nice to be able to back that up with some evidence. It is a very satisfying, mainly patriotic feeling,” said Slingsby. “I am never going to say I am the best sailor of all time. Anything that I have done in the last 10 years, I have done with this team behind me. So, if I am ever called the best, it’s because of this team behind me. For me, Sir Ben Ainslie will always be the greatest. I grew up watching him at 15 during the Sydney Olympics and I said right then and there, ‘I want to become a professional sailor,’ and I want to try to do what he has done. He is such an inspiration to me, and even though I have a couple of wins on him lately, he will always be the GOAT.”

Once they dropped off the foils it was time for a Team Australia hug.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The French, who held the last spot by one precious point going into the weekend, came out on the short end when Ainslie and ETGBR went straight for the jugular on the get-go and inflicted brutal chaos tactics on the team.

Skipper Quentin Delapierre said he “expected” the Brits’ aggressive match-racing tactics but admitted he was surprised Ainslie targeted him from the off.

“They trust their skills and maneuvers and they are just one point behind us,” he said. “I was surprised that it was directly from the first race … and I am frustrated because I think in the first two races we could have got a hook or rolled him, but we didn’t manage to achieve it.”

The Denmark SailGP Team has completed a spectacular transformation to be crowned Impact League champions for Season 3, just nipping the Kiwis, who were last year’s champions. The Impact League is a second leaderboard that runs alongside the Season Championship and tracks the positive actions teams take to reduce their overall footprint and accelerate inclusivity in sailing. The victory sees Denmark moving from worst to first, winning funds for its Race for the Future partner One Ocean Foundation, having launched “More Speed Less Plastic” to reward athletes for doing what they do best, racing fast by connecting the cutting-edge performance in SailGP while diverting ocean-bound waste by removing 10 kilograms of plastic litter from the ocean for every km/h of speed the team clocks at each event.

Team Denmark celebrate their Impact League championship.
Team Denmark celebrates their Impact League championship.
© 2023 Bob Martin/SailGP

As for the Americans, the team finished its last race of the event on a positive note with a third-place finish, but CEO/skipper Jimmy Spithill recognized it as a lost opportunity to claim a race win after a terrific start.

Team USA
It was splish splash but no champagne bath for Team USA.
© 2023 Mark Reid

“We were testing a new combination, so it was nice to somewhat pull it together, but clearly we need to get our act together,” said Spithill. “This event was about as good as it gets for our sport and clearly we wanted to do well here. We are overdue for a good result at home and have yet to do that, and with four US events in Season 4 we absolutely want to be up on the podium.”

As for the Australians: “We know this ‘purple patch’ run we are on now is going to come to an end,” said Slingsby. “We just got to really enjoy this moment, because our reign will come to an end and we will be sitting around beating ourselves up saying we used to be so good, but we just got to keep it going for as long as we can and we need to look at these moments and the dynamic within the team, the atmosphere, and know we are going to go through some dark days ahead.

“I have no plans of leaving SailGP and I know I am not going to retire undefeated,” concluded Slingsby. “We have to look at these moments, because we are in the peak of our careers, and when I am retired in the future I am going to look back at this as the best time of my life”.

If anyone is wondering about the term “Three-peat” in the headline, a three-peat (also threepeat, or 3-peat) is a term sometimes used when a sporting team wins a championship three times, usually, but not limited to, consecutively. Now you know … – Ed.

Baja Ha-Ha XXIX Registrations Open at Noon Tomorrow, May 9

While enjoying the weekend at the Pacific Sail & Power Boat Show in Redwood City, we chatted with dozens of sailors, some local and some from afar, who, apart from singing the praises of their favorite magazine — Latitude 38, of course — were excited about this year’s Baja Ha-Ha. And we can understand why! The Ha-Ha is pretty much a rite of passage, a must-do for sailors who want to be able to say they do, or have truly “lived,” the sailing life. We met couples who are excited about signing up this year for their first Ha-Ha, sailors who are looking to do it again, and others who are hoping to join a boat to gain some experience before casting off on their own Ha-Ha adventure. And that’s the beauty of the Baja Ha-Ha: It really is for everyone. So, if you’re one of the adventurous sailors with only one line left holding you to the dock, stand by, because registrations for the 29th Baja Ha-Ha cruisers’ rally open at noon (PDT) tomorrow, May 9.

Signing up is easy. Go to the Ha-Ha sign-up page HERE and fill in the spaces. There may be some clamoring to be the first entry, but relax; it’s already taken.

The Poobah has awarded honorary entry #1 to Scott and Jill Stephens of the Catana 47 L’Avventura. “After 25+ years, 150+ episodes of television, and a handful of films, I am done with Hollywood,” writes Scott. “Leaving Hollywood and taking off on the Ha-Ha was all set in motion back in 2009 when I crewed on Profligate. After that Ha-Ha, the decision was always not if, but when. And now is our time to move on and live a different life, one that involves more sailing, more cruising, and more living. Jill and I will spend some time in the Sea of Cortez and then, well, we’ll find out as we go.”

Baja Ha-Ha catamaran on the water
Ha-Ha scuttlebutt has floated the idea that Scott and Jill may have named their boat after 1960 Italian drama film L’Avventura.
© 2023

So if your competitive nature and enthusiasm are at an all-time high, you’ll have to contend with being the one to secure the #2 entry (we know people who are aiming for this). And what’s the big deal about being first to sign up? For starters, you get bragging rights. (What sailor doesn’t like those?) But among other things, you also have a much better chance of getting space at the dock in Cabo. Here’s what the Poobah says about it:

“The benefits of signing up early are several: 1) You’re making a commitment to actually cast off the docklines on a specific date. 2) Given that commitment, you can start making berthing and boatyard reservations in Mexico as you might need them. Reservations are strongly encouraged these days, and are essential for the holidays. 3) The higher you are on the list of sign-ups, the greater your chance of getting a slip in Cabo — although nobody is guaranteed a slip.”

Whatever number your entry is, just signing up and doing the Ha-Ha makes you a winner in our books. And if you’re still sitting on the rails about signing up, take a look at the Ha-Ha’s 2022 kickoff in San Diego.”

If you didn’t already know, the Baja Ha-Ha is the 750-mile cruisers’ rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, with R&R stops at super-funky and fun Turtle Bay and surreal Bahia Santa Maria. The event runs from October 30 to November 11, 2023, and includes eight major social events.

Did You Find ‘Max Ebb’ This Month?

If you took the opportunity of more late-spring rain to read your copy of Latitude 38 this past weekend and ended up frustrated you couldn’t find Max Ebb this month, we thought we’d help you out. The ever-creative Max sent in a unique column, with Max and Lee dining out at sea. The story leads with, “Spencer Tracy, playing the Old Man in the 1958 version of The Old Man and the Sea, has this to say about fresh-caught mahi-mahi (also known as dorado or dolphin-fish): ‘What an excellent fish dolphin is to eat cooked,’ he said. ‘And what a miserable fish raw.'” Then somehow it moves on to Mountain House blueberry granola.

The off-watch for two.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Max Ebb

With a unique, single-page column of Max we thought we’d shake it up and move it from its usual place at the end of our feature section and move it forward. We’ll give you a hint: It’s on page 53.

Speaking of Max, while some of our crew were at Pacific Sail & Power Boat Show on the weekend we attended SailGP. While talking with folks in the long line at the entrance, we spoke with a former bowman who’d sailed with Max and Lee on Swiftsure in the ’80s. He recounted a classic foredeck tale of being on the bow during a practice sail for the Big Boat Series in a stiff Bay breeze when the dreaded easing of the topping lift landed the heavy 26-ft aluminum pole squarely on his head. The full shock left him bloodied and crumpled on the foredeck. He did not make BBS that year and was replaced by two guys from the 12M Victory, which had recently been eliminated from the America’s Cup challenger selection series. Happily, he recovered and was back to spectate from a safe distance.

Was That an Oligarch, Cruise Ship, or Megayacht Heading Out of the Bay?

We’re not sure what it is, but Saturday evening after SailGP we were amongst many who couldn’t miss this large yacht(?) heading out of San Francisco Bay. As they approached the Golden Gate, they launched their helicopter off the bow, we assumed to go capture the sunset shot of the yacht heading out beneath the bridge. Did anyone catch the name?

Oligarchs and megayachts
Was this an oligarch sneaking out of the Bay?
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

We assume it’s not a Russian oligarch as they’ve had trouble moving freely lately, but we know not all oligarchs are from Russia. This is the time of year we see the occasional megayacht heading north to get the iconic, must-have photo of their yacht in front of glaciers. They have their captains burn hundreds of thousands of gallons of fossil fuels driving them up there so they can get the photo before climate change eliminates the glaciers.

The “small” sailboat to the left is the 65-ft Derek M. Baylis, designed and built by Tom Wylie, one of the most dedicated, environmentally conscious citizens we know. The Derek M. Baylis has brought hundreds of kids out on the Bay through Wylie Charters to teach them about sustainability and protecting the ocean ecosystem. We wish they could take a few oligarchs sailing.

Sailing In Pictures
Although April still had some crazy wet weather, we were able to get out on the water a little and enjoy the variety that comes with sailing.