Billy Besson first to launch on home waters ahead of Marseille SailGP Season 1 Grand Final
MARSEILLE, France – September 15, 2019 – With five days until six national teams go head to head at the Marseille SailGP Season 1 Grand Final, the home team – headed by Frenchman Billy Besson – hit the water for the first time today in its supercharged F50 catamaran. For the first time ever in France, the world's fastest flying catamarans and top athletes will take center stage, promising high speed, high tech and high drama over the weekend of September 20-22.
The stakes are high and history will be written in the Mediterranean port of Marseille. Following events in Sydney, San Francisco, New York and Cowes (UK), the top two teams at the end of three days of racing will battle it out for the striking SailGP trophy – commissioned by world-renowned trophy maker Thomas Lyte – as well as US$1 million, an unprecedented amount of prize money in the sport of sailing.
For Besson’s France SailGP Team, it will be a battle for points with Phil Robertson’s China SailGP Team, its nearest rival on the leaderboard – as well as the chance to win the hearts of the home crowd, watching from special viewing platforms built on the Seawall.
"It’ll be like home here, in front of our own public, families and friends," said Besson. "And I hope this additional pressure will be positive, like having an extra crew member onboard to support us all. We are increasingly confident on the boat and are beginning to find out how to tame the beast in a range of conditions and get her to do what we want. That’ll be the aim in Marseille, to get the F50 doing what we want and really show the home crowd what we’re made of."
Fresh from recent success at Cowes SailGP last month, when the team recorded its best race result to date, Besson (helmsman, Sevrier), Marie Riou (flight controller, Plougastel-Daoulas), Matthieu Vandame (wing trimmer, Rennes), Olivier Herledant (grinder, Douarnenez), Timothé Lapauw (grinder, Antibes) and Devan Le Bihan (grinder, Hennebont) are eager to put on a show for the French fans. To celebrate being on home soil, the team unveiled a new design on the French F50 – the famous Breton stripes – emblazoned not only across the 24-meter wingsail, but also on the main platform of the boat.
Currently, Australia’s Tom Slingsby is leading the charge at the top of the leaderboard but will have to fight off strong competition from fellow Olympic gold medalist Nathan Outteridge of Japan, who is just four points behind. Rome Kirby’s young United States team and the British team helmed by Olympian Dylan Fletcher will also be fighting hard to finish the season on the podium.
Following record breaking speeds in Cowes, where Slingsby hit 50 knots (60 mph/100 kph) in racing, Marseille could also see records tumble if the strong local wind, ‘the Mistral,’ shows its face.
"You can get some big waves if the Mistral is strong, with numerous local effects when the thermal breeze kicks in and the wind is affected by the city and the islands, so it makes for interesting conditions," said Lapauw, the youngest member of the French team.
Racing will take place at 2.30 p.m., starting on Friday September 20, with the six F50s competing in front of the Seawall on the Rade Nord racecourse.
For French fans not able to make it to Marseille, the racing will be shown live on Canal+ Multisport.