High speed and new wing at heart of Australia capsize
Australia SailGP Team’s capsize during a training run in the Great Sound last week resulted from an error controlling the new wing-sail on the modified F50 foiling catamaran.
The SailGP champions were on the first lap of their first official session in 14 months when they capsized in United States SailGP Team’s boat travelling at 45 knots in about 25 knots of wind, with gusts to 35 knots.
“We were training on the USA Team's F50 when the capsize happened, and I'd say we were sailing in the upper wind limits for these boats,” Tom Slingsby, the Australia SailGP Team helmsman and CEO, told The Royal Gazette.
"We were using the new 18-metre wing, which has a few different operating ways. It was our first time using this wing and we did make some errors which have not been an issue in the past and were highlighted today in extreme conditions.“
The mishap evoked memories of Emirates Team New Zealand's capsize in the America's Cup Challenger play-off semi-finals against Land Rover BAR in the Great Sound in 2017.
“It was definitely an adrenalin-fuelled start to the session and capsizing when going that fast was definitely pretty scary,” Slingsby added. “But I’m just glad everyone is safe and the damage to the boat is minimal.”
The Olympic and America’s Cup champion said the capsize underscored the importance of being able to train as much possible to come to grips with the new features on the supercharged F50 ahead of the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess on April 24 and 25.
“I guess this experience just highlights why it's so important that we are able to test these boats and the new technology out before the Bermuda event,” Slingsby said.
“We did a safety session in the water and did a capsize recovery session before we hit the water, so our safety protocol went very smoothly in righting the boat.
“We're very grateful to the safety teams and the USA shore team for getting us safely back upright."
The Australians were using US boat while their catamaran is still being set up.
Teams are sharing boats until the entire eight-boat fleet is on the water.
Slingsby’s team won the inaugural SailGP championship in 2019 and with it the $1 million, winner-takes-all prize.