SailGP teams, back in full force, power up for $1 million prize

“The biggest thing is, how consistent can you keep your roster?” Jimmy Spithill, a two-time America’s Cup winner and United States SailGP team driver, said. “It’s fleeting as there’s little time—not a lot of practice, you can’t really train between events—so the time you spend together is very important.”

Boats costing around $4 million are similar. Larry Ellison, a two-time America’s Cup winner and founder of Oracle, is the majority owner of SailGP. Ellison also owns seven teams, Coutts said. The boats may be similar, but how each team sails them is not. So much practice goes into developing a playbook of choreographed maneuvers.

“We feel a lot more competitive now than in Bermuda,” said Rome Kirby, America’s Cup winner and flight controller for the United States SailGP team. It’s “time in boat, time together as a team”. And spent time polishing the playbook. “You need to do this together. There are no cheat codes.”

Each boat is equipped with electronic sensors that continuously collect data and send it to an Oracle-run cloud where it is available – along with onboard video footage and audio from microphones worn by the crew – to all teams.

“It speeds up learning and therefore competitiveness,” Couts said of the shared data.

Teams also receive similar hardware and software upgrades. “No one can completely dominate, because you can’t make every decision right,” he said. “The fact that the boats are so close in performance, even with the difference in technology, means that we regularly see different winners.

“The design teams are constantly working to improve the performance of the boats, and we are also looking at racing and seeing how this can be enhanced,” Couts said.

So boats continue to evolve, but if sailors miss events, they may find themselves and their team less competitive. Spithill said the entire fleet was now more competitive because the crew had “more races and more time on the yachts.”

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