Mubadala United States Sail Grand Prix San Francisco (aka SailGP) on March 26-27 served up one of the most action-packed weekends on the Bay in a couple of years. Mother Nature’s fickle ways were challenging on the final day, but the “Powered-by-Nature” event made the best of everything San Francisco Bay had to offer. We enjoyed two days on the waterfront with the sellout crowd that visited from all over the country to view the Season 2 finale. We want to call attention to other highlights beyond the clashing of the gladiators in the main event.
SailGP created the main stage for much more than the F50 foiling cats. We applaud their efforts to showcase a much broader picture of sailing than is often seen at grand prix events, with youth and mixed-gender sailing on display in a wide variety of craft. This included youth regattas in the SailGP fleet of RS Fevas and the Waszp Inspire initiative, which featured competitors from around the world who earned their spot by winning events in their home countries. Wing foiling in front of the grandstands put the newest foiling discipline on display in front of the crowds. If F50 sailing looked completely otherworldly to prospective sailors, the RS Fevas, Waszps and wings presented much more affordable and comprehensible options for the public.
We also have to hand it to Russell Coutts and SailGP for creating the Impact League. To suggest you’re going to create an event of this scale that will be climate-positive is to immediately invite critique and scrutiny of everything you do. Despite those risks, we commend them for taking the plunge and challenging the teams (and all of us) to do better for the planet. They created a mission statement: “A world-first initiative to make sustainability essential to the fabric of sport and to accelerate the transition to clean energy.” They backed it up with a scoring system and trophy to be awarded to the team that leads a point system for social and environmental sustainability.
It’s not a sideshow. The winners, Team New Zealand, occupied the same stage as the SailGP winners, Team Australia. Dr. Sylvia Earle presented the trophy to Peter Burling and Team New Zealand. Dr. Earle commended their achievement while adding that it was the whale, which had temporarily halted Sunday’s racing, that won the day. It gave us all a moment to pause and give recognition to nature in the midst of the grand finale.
There were a lot of fans in the stands, a lot of boats on the Bay, and a lot of smiling spectators who were inspired by the miraculous sailing resource that serves as the centerpoint of the Bay Area. Fifty-knot foiling F50s created a spectacle, but there was so much more of sailing on display that shouldn’t be overlooked. We can thank SailGP for thinking outside the box to elevate sustainability, inclusivity, and a more comprehensive view of sailing in the public eye.