Drivers of SailGP teams speak to media ahead of Halifax races

A day before 10 international teams hit the Halifax Harbour for the Rockwool Canada Sail Grand Prix races, drivers for each team took part in a news conference at the Museum of the Atlantic Friday morning, answering questions about the season so far and what they expect moving forward.

Saturday and Sunday’s races mark the events eleventh stop on the world circuit. Following the races in Halifax this weekend, there will be two events left, including the San Francisco Grand Final, where the winning team will receive a prize pot of $2 million.

Phil Robertson, driver for Canada SailGP Team, says the league is “extremely pumped” to be making its Canadian debut.

“I think it’s been a long time coming. And one of the visions of the team when we started was to have a home event and here we are in Canada about to light it up,” he said.

Team Canada is one of the newest to the league, first joining at the beginning of Season 3.

As of Friday, the Canadian team was holding the sixth position on leaderboard however, Robertson says that can change quickly.

The leaderboard for SailGP is seen as of Friday, May 31, 2024. (Source: SailGP)

“We’re seeing some huge swings on the leader board just from one event and there’s three left. Anything can happen from here.”

Team Canada is one of four teams owned by the league. It’s currently up for sale, something that could impact its participation next season.

“It’s no secret, our team is for sale. We’ve got some really interested parties at the moment and I’d say we’re in a pretty strong position and yeah, it’s pretty cool. We’ve got an amazing team, the sailing side of it is going great, the business side is good as well, and we’ve got some work to do the next few months to make sure we’re on the start line of next season.”

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The driver of the Canada SailGP Team, Phil Robertson, is pictured speaking at a news conference in Halifax on May 31, 2024.

Robertson says he’s noticed the sport grow since the Canadian team joined the league.

“When we started this team, there was pretty much zero foiling boats in this country and since we’ve been riding for the last two years, we’ve seen a huge growth in kids who are getting hooked on this sport and going out foiling.”

“We’ve set up about 10 foiling centres now throughout Canada and it’s huge. The growth has been massive and yeah, we’re excited. We’re ready for them to come and take our jobs, so keep at it kids.”

During the last event in Bermuda, the United States SailGP Team, which is currently in seventh place, had a devastating crash they say came down to human error.

“It’s out there that a wrong button was pressed and at these speeds, when you’re pushing hard and you make a mistake, it can be often catastrophic,” said Taylor Canfield, driver of United States SailGP Team.

“This has happened to other teams, obviously not to the extent that it happened to us but yeah, it’s racing and we’re pushing hard.”

Canfield says his team is happy to be back on the water for the Halifax event.

“The SailGP, as an organization, did an incredible job getting us back on the start line for this event and we’re so grateful that they were able to get the wing repaired. And we learned a lot from the mistake we made and put our hands up and we’ve already made great progress in the last two days to accelerate our learning again,” said Canfield.

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“And to look back at the data from yesterday especially, it feels promising that we’re on the same upward trajectory that we were on before the crash.”

Canfield says it’s exciting to see how engaged the city of Halifax has been leading up to this weekend’s event.

“Great venue. It’s so cool racing in these city race courses in front of the crowds and we’ve had two great days out there so far, especially yesterday… It sounds like everyone has done an incredible job here to prep for this event… Canada’s turning it on for this one.”

As of Friday, the New Zealand SailGP Team is on top of the scoreboard. So far this season, that team has won $900,000, however team driver Peter Burling says it isn’t about the money.

“Every event, the goal is to try and win the event… the prize money is very nice obviously and a big part of this league but we’re just trying to keep building that title.”

The course in Halifax is tighter than some in the past. With more boats racing, the risk of collisions climb.

“As the race course gets smaller, our boats get closer together so it’s very important to have eyes on all directions. And so, the strategist on board, you’ll probably see them moving around a lot more now than last season,” said Nathan Outteridge, driver of the Switzerland SailGP Team, which is in last place as of Friday.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage also appeared during Friday’s press conference to officially open the event for this weekend.

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“Here, we do things together, the feds, the province, the city… Everybody pulls together,” said Savage.

Savage kept his speech brief, closing the conference with these words: “Is Halifax ready for SailGP? Two words, hell yes! Let’s get it on.”

The races in Halifax take place on Saturday and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day.

Tickets are said to have sold out in about 12 minutes, which is faster than any other SailGP event. However, spectators without tickets can still watch the action from the Halifax and Dartmouth shorelines.

The races will be broadcast on both CTV2 and TSN.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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