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US driver Taylor Canfield back in Bermuda as he attempts to master the F50

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Learning curve: Taylor Canfield's USA SailGP Team capsize during practice yesterday as they sail closely past Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team helmed by Giles Scott and New Zealand SailGP Team helmed by Peter Burling (Photograph by Felix Diemer/SailGP)

A familiar name in an unfamiliar boat will be tearing his way through the puffs at the Apex Group Bermuda Sail Grand Prix this weekend.

Taylor Canfield is no stranger to the island’s sailing community after winning the prestigious Bermuda Gold Cup on three occasions but this time he is in charge of the United States team.

The 35-year-old is the newest driver on the SailGP block after taking on the role in November when the team was purchased by an investment group, including founding Uber engineer Ryan McKillen and two-times world champion sailor Mike Buckley, and Canfield admits it has been hard playing catch-up in the F50.

“For sure this is a big learning curve as this is like no other boat in the world,” Canfield said.

“It is the most complex boat and nearly the fastest boat in the world, so it’s tricky getting used to those speeds and how quickly things happen and how they sail around the racecourse.

“You are sailing through puffs at ten times the speed you would normally, so to adjust to that you are looking for wind in different places on the racecourse and trying to figure out if it’s worth trying to push to get into the next breeze.

“It’s a bit of a different game but as we’re getting more time the game is slowing down as it does for a lot of athletes that get comfortable in their roles. To have days like today [Thursday] when everything was calm and under control gives you a lot of confidence going forward.”

Taylor Canfield, driver of USA SailGP Team, cleans his F50 catamaran at the technical area after a practice session before the Apex Group Bermuda Sail Grand Prix gets under way (Photograph by Felix Diemer/SailGP)

As is perhaps to be expected when parachuting into position halfway through SailGP Season 4, the new US team has experienced some inconsistent results, finishing on the podium in Abu Dhabi in November and as low as eighth in New Zealand in March, but Canfield is a man with a multiyear plan.

“Our long-term goal is to have a shot to win a season in our third year of owning the team,” Canfield said.

“I think that’s more than feasible given the progression that we’ve made so far. To hop in and have a decent event in Dubai and then an even better one in Abu Dhabi, finishing on the podium, was huge as a lot of the new teams we’ve seen enter the league still haven’t done that.

“It’s awesome to see how everyone is picking up their specific roles and how quickly the team is meshing and growing. Yes, there’s bumps and we’re going to have a lot more of them but the learning curve is nearly vertical so to know that we have that much more in the tank is really promising.

Taylor Canfield is driver of US SailGP team

“Everyone on the boat goes out to win but we’re a new team and the big goal for us is to focus on the process.

“It’s going to be frustrating as we don’t have the time that a lot of these other teams have.

“So if we focus on sailing our boat really well and doing our jobs individually and focus on our streamline communication, we know that we can compete with these guys, but to do that at the top level consistently is what we’re striving for.”

SailGP has often been described as Formula 1 on foils but you would not see Lewis Hamilton washing his car after a practice session in the way that Canfield got his hands dirty after his boat was hauled out of the water after a training session on Thursday.

“Hopefully, it won’t always be that way but for now it is,” Canfield said.

Careful what you press: inside a SailGP boat

“There is something unique about caring for the tools that you’re given and that you race with. It’s great to know that the boat is really well cared for by all of us and we’re holding ourselves accountable to make sure that this thing is absolutely perfect for every day of racing.

“I think everyone has brought in to that and is willing to put in that little extra effort to make sure we’re confident that nothing will go wrong the next day.”

The first session of SailGP is shaping up to be a thrilling one this afternoon with a stiff breeze forecast to be awaiting the competitors, and Canfield anticipates an exciting time for spectators.

“I don’t have a real preference for conditions,” he said.

“But are these boats harder to sail in the breeze? Absolutely.

“Is there a lot more going on and a lot more risk involved? Absolutely.

“Is it more fun? Yes, it is, and we will rip around knowing that we are pushing the boat hard. The breeze will not hold us back from pushing to the absolute limit in trying to win every race.”

Members of the US SailGP team wash down their boat after a Thursday practice session

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Published May 04, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 04, 2024 at 1:40 pm)

US driver Taylor Canfield back in Bermuda as he attempts to master the F50

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