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More Than 50-Knot Racing at SailGP

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.

J-88 Pelagia
The J/88 Pelagia went to Quantum Sails to have them stitch up a new kite to show solidarity with Ukraine.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
RS Fevas
Two-person RS Fevas demonstrated that dinghy sailing on the San Francisco waterfront is a reasonable and affordable option (when conditions and skill levels allow).
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / JOhn

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.

Waszp F50
The foiling Waszp fleet was impressively as capable as the F50s in handling the Cityfront breezes dished up on Saturday.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Will Paxton
SailGP reconnected many sailing friends who have been keeping a lower profile over the last couple of years. This is Will Paxton of Quantum Sails and his girlfriend Jeane Rodgers.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
wing acrobat
How much fun is this? Cruisers in the background, F50s in the middle ground, and foiling wings — with one leaping about eight feet out of the water — all happening ringside on the Cityfront. San Francisco demonstrated why it’s a world-renowned sailing venue.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
wing F50
The F50s have left the Bay, but St. Francis Yacht Club is running the first-ever wing sailing races in 2022.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Awards ceremony
Despite the fickle weather complicating the timing, there was a great crowd on hand for the final awards ceremony.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

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.

Impact-League Winners
Impact League winners Team New Zealand receive the Impact trophy from Dr. Sylvia Earle
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

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.

1 Comment

  1. Tim Mickleburgh 3 months ago

    Fifty-knot foiling F50s created a spectacle, sure. Like NASCAR racing, a high speed procession with the occasional crash. And the “Powered by Nature” is bollix: these machines are built from exotic materials and must cost an energy fortune to ship back and forth across the world.

    Foiling Wasps (and Moths) are far more interesting, and for some real racing watch the Aussie 18s on YouTube, especially the JJ Giltinan series. No hydraulics, no computers, just skill and muscle. SF Bay sailors did well in these boats in the 90s, and I’m surprised it never came to much, though the McKee brothers will forever feature in the highlight reels for their encounter with a Sydney Harbor ferry. Sadly there’ll be no more racing until October, but there are plenty of reruns to watch. And FYI, many of the best F50 crews came up through the 18s.

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