SailGP’s nine teams will be navigating new conditions, a tighter racecourse and a noisy home crowd sat right on the waterfront as the global, purpose-led league makes its freshwater racing debut this weekend at the inaugural Chicago event on Lake Michigan.
Navy Pier will offer fans a fantastic vantage point from which to watch the second event of SailGP Season 3. Australia, led by Tom Slingsby, enters the weekend not only as the league’s two-time defending champions but fresh from victory in the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess last month. Jimmy Spithill’s U.S. team is still searching for its first event win in SailGP, and with the league moving on to Europe for the Northern Hemisphere summer after Chicago, it’s the team’s last chance for a win on home waters until 2023.
At the official pre-race press conference held at Navy Pier Spithill said: “Chicago is in store for one hell of a show. We are going to take that home crowd support and use it anyway we can. But we need to be consistent. In Bermuda we had some good results but we really had some bad ones, and if you make some mistakes in this fleet you absolutely get punished, that’s just how it is in any high level sport in the world.”
While Spithill said he wouldn’t be narrowing his focus to just the Australia boat despite its recent dominance, Slingsby admitted he could feel the eyes of the fleet on every move his team makes.
Slingsby said: “What we’ve got going on at the moment is really special, we’re in a really good moment, we know it’s not going to last forever and we know we’re going to get beaten. Every time we hit the water at the moment we have a lot of confidence. I do get superstitious, which is the worst thing in the world. All of a sudden I’m trying to eat the same thing for breakfast each day so I need to calm that down for the moment and focus on the water.”
Another team that turned heads in Bermuda was Canada, with the Phil Robertson-led newcomers making the event final and securing a podium finish in its debut Grand Prix.
After a brief capsize during training yesterday on Lake Michigan, Robertson’s team had been given an immediate reminder not to rest on its laurels.
Robertson said: “We obviously probably exceeded most people’s expectations, but yesterday was an example of how much we have to learn here. It’s challenging out there but I don’t mind a little dog fight. I’m a scrapper, so when there are conditions like this and it’s a bit wild in front of the city it gets my blood going and a city like Chicago is one of the coolest places you can sail, it’s such a cool thing to be a part of.”
Also looking to build on an eye-catching Bermuda performance is Sir Ben Ainslie, who led the Great Britain SailGP Team to a second place finish.
Ainslie said: “We’re quite happy with how we’re sailing, we know that last season we certainly made some unforced errors which cost us big time and it’s about ironing them out. With regards to Australia the results do the talking but when you hear Tom Slingsby talking about how good his team is or how good they think they are, that’s a good motivator, and it’s a good target for the rest of us to try and beat.”
New Zealand meanwhile continues an impressive defense of the Impact League title, leading the standings after one event of Season 3 ahead of Denmark and Canada. SailGP’s second podium for the planet, it tracks the positive actions the teams make to reduce their overall carbon footprint and help accelerate inclusivity in sailing.
Driver Peter Burling said: “Everyone is upping their game from where they started last year. Denmark was really close to taking the win from us in Bermuda, but as we know from experience there are no silver bullets out there, it just takes a lot of hard work from everyone.”
Chicago is the second of 11 confirmed venues (with the Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney announced earlier this week) that will form the Season 3 calendar. Plymouth in the UK is the next stop for SailGP, before the fleet visits Copenhagen, Saint-Tropez, Cádiz, Dubai, Singapore, Sydney, Christchurch and San Francisco.
Racing starts at 2.00pm local time and is live on CBS Sports in the United States. For all the details on how to watch around the globe, visit SailGP.com/watch. For fans in Chicago, a few final tickets are still available for the weekend but are selling fast, head to SailGP.com for more information.
The event is also the first for T-Mobile as SailGP’s exclusive U.S. 5G provider. T-Mobile will deploy its brand-new Hybrid 5G Mobile Networks in Chicago, reducing global data and video latency during the award-winning, fully remote broadcast that leverages the Oracle cloud to globally transmit live racing data at low latency.
During the weekend at the SailGP race village at Navy Pier, T-Mobile charging stations will also ensure fans have ample places to power their devices.