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SailGP teams welcomed ahead of ‘most exciting race on water’

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The pre-event press conference in the Adrenaline Lounge yesterday ahead of the Apex Group Bermuda Sail Grand Prix. Front row, from left: Tom Slingsby, CEO and driver of Australia, Phil Robertson, driver of Canada, Quentin Delapierre, driver of France. Back row: Diego Botin, driver of Spain, Peter Burling, co-CEO and driver of New Zealand, and Nicolai Sehested, driver of Rockwool Denmark (Photograph by Bob Martin/SailGP)

The team members of the ten SailGP teams preparing to compete on a global stage against the stunning backdrop of Bermuda’s Great Sound were welcomed with open arms at a press conference yesterday.

Described by organisers as “the world’s most exciting racing on water”, the Apex Group Bermuda Sail Grand Prix is set to take place today and tomorrow, and will be followed today by an after-party with live entertainment.

This will be the third consecutive season that SailGP has held an event in Bermuda and with ten teams competing, this will be the biggest yet.

Bermuda’s own Glenn Jones, NBC Boston news anchor, hosted the press conference at Pier Six, firing challenging questions at the team members, while Owen Darrell, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, set the scene for the days ahead.

Darrell said: “SailGP truly embodies the essence of connectivity. It takes Bermuda to the world and brings the world to Bermuda. Through extensive television and social-media coverage, the stunning beauty of our island is broadcast to millions across 212 territories.

“SailGP serves as a platform to showcase Bermuda's rich hospitality and a vibrant culture. This event brings together representatives from ten diverse countries spanning Europe, North America and Australasia.

“Last year we witnessed the fantastic initiative of running sail classes for kids bringing world-class athletes to Bermuda. The essence of SailGP is not just a sporting event — it’s a celebration of the harmony and the blend of tourism, culture and sport.”

Owen Darrell, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport (File photograph)

Hazel Clark, director of global sales and business development at the Bermuda Tourism Authority, expressed how proud the authority is to be hosting another global sports event in Bermuda.

“We have had a very busy week and we thank the volunteers and our community. We are so proud to have these world-class athletes here,” she said.

“The community impact cannot be denied. We are proud to be leading sports tourism in Bermuda, such a small destination that is able to do great things because of this community.”

Sir Russell Coutts, SailGP CEO, speaks at the pre-event press conference in the Adrenaline Lounge ahead of the Apex Group Bermuda Sail Grand Prix in Bermuda (Photograph by Bob Martin/SailGP)

Sir Russell Coutts, a world champion New Zealand yachtsman, SailGP chief executive and King Edward VII Gold Cup and America’s Cup winner, took to the podium to say he is looks forward to some exciting racing over the weekend.

He said: “From our perspective, the league has been going from strength to strength and we are really looking forward to bringing the event even closer to the fans this weekend when we stage the main event stadium on Morgan’s Point. It will be a completely different experience for those of us who have seen some of our previous events here in Bermuda.

“All of this wouldn’t be possible without the fantastic support from BTA, the Government and the Apex Group. Thank you for supporting us here. We have a great forecast ahead of us, some really exciting racing to look forward to. I wish all the competitors all the best and I expect some great racing.”

Glenn Jones, NBC Boston news anchor (File photograph)

Jones asked Peter Burling, the helmsman for New Zealand, who are at the top of the series leaderboard, how well-earned his team’s position was given a crushing, eight-point penalty dished out to second-placed Australia for hitting a race mark in Christchurch in order to avoid a boat collision.

The loss of 12 event points and eight season points landed the Australians with the most severe penalty in SailGP history.

Mr Burling responded: “If you look back at our season, I don’t think any of you would have believed we would be at the top of the leaderboard right now.

“It has been a very dynamic season for us. I think it shows the resilience of our team to be able to keep in the fight and keep pushing forward.

“The penalty points in SailGP are ridiculously harsh. I think the policy is very harsh, but it is very clear on what the penalties are. Everyone is trying to keep these boats apart.”

SailGP’s tough new penalty point system is designed to reduce the chance of collisions, which includes the doubling of penalty points for contact and crashes between rival boats.

Jones asked Tom Slingsby, of Australia, how he felt about the policy.

Slingsby said: “It is very harsh. I understand the league wants to keep the boats apart. We disagree with the amount of penalty points; we thought we should have got a couple of penalty points but not the most in SailGP history.

“We don’t think what we did was reckless sailing. Everyone has a different opinion and we feel it was harsh, but we are going to move on.”

Jones turned his attention to Diego Botín, from the Spanish team who are in third place and only four points behind Australia. He asked Botín what his strategy would be and what he anticipated would be a reasonable expectation for his team.

Botín said: “We need to keep doing what we have been doing until now and try to grow as fast as we can. We need to keep those penalty points away and focus on the process. This is what brought us to the position we are in now and I believe that if we keep doing that, we will be able to keep growing and we will see how it ends up.”

Jones then asked Slingsby if ten competitors may be too much, given the risk of collisions.

“No, I don’t,” the Australian said. “We have all got to keep learning and evolving. I don’t think that ten is too many; I think we can go with a couple more, potentially.

“If we get more practice we can increase the number of boats and race effectively on the water.”

Australia SailGP Team, helmed by Tom Slingsby, sail past a spectator catamaran during a practice session ahead of the Apex Group Bermuda Sail Grand Prix (Photograph by Felix Diemer/SailGP)

Tickets available for purchase online at the SailGP website. Festivities include a live concert by soca sensation Kes the Band after the opening day of racing

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Published May 04, 2024 at 7:58 am (Updated May 04, 2024 at 8:04 am)

SailGP teams welcomed ahead of ‘most exciting race on water’

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