Dubai’s perilously tight racetrack is set to put pressure on teams’ starting strategy as the fleet fights to get out in front.
Located in the commercial port of Port Rashid, the course is likely to be under 2km long, limiting overtaking opportunities and increasing boat-on-boat situations.
Speaking at a pre-event press conference, Australia driver Tom Slingsby said this would put pressure on ‘positioning, starting and trying to find clean lanes’.
“On a super tight racecourse that will be important to move up through the race if you’re at the back of the pack.”
Slingsby recalled watching Switzerland, Canada and Spain in practice, during which it took ‘less than 30 seconds for them to get from Mark One down to the bottom gate. “That was daunting,” he said.
Handling the F50 on the course in the 30 km/h – 33 km/h wind speed forecast for Sunday could be a ‘handful’, he added. “It will be exciting for the fans but it will be scary for us.”
Great Britain driver Ben Ainslie agreed that the racing would ‘come down to tight boat-on-boat manoevures’ and ‘trying to get separation from other boats’.
“The moment you’re alongside too many other boats, you’re all slowing each other down – the ones that tack away and find the space will probably be the ones that do quite well.”
Canada driver Phil Robertson suggested the weekend could turn into a ‘dog fight’ and wouldn’t hesitate to ‘swing’ for the other teams when racing gets under way.
“On a tight racecourse like this, it’s definitely an attitude that you’ve got to have – you can’t be too timid.”
With spectators watching the racing from the habour wall, Dubai is set to offer the closest shoreside racing of the SailGP calendar. For this reason, the event could ‘go down in SailGP history as one of the best events for fans,” Switzerland co-driver Sebastien Schneiter said.
“We’re sailing right next to the wall and the fans can almost high five us when we’re tacking on the boundary,” he said.
Racing takes place in Dubai between 15:00-16:30 GST on Saturday and Sunday. Full broadcast information and How to Watch details here