SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – Some of the fastest sailboats in the world, representing six different nations were out Tuesday, on the windy San Francisco Bay, getting ready for this weekend’s historic Sail GP race.
It’s the first time in the United States that all six of the high-tech sailboats have gotten together as a fleet to practice against one another. It’s called tuning up.
“The guys are pushing for the maximum speed as well as to keep the boat safe,” says Sail GP’s Tom Herbert-Evans.
Safe is a relative term in this sport. These sailboats reach speeds of nearly 60 mph! Some believe they will go even faster. When they cross each other on the course, things can get hairy.
“I think the closing speeds are near, 80 knots! Seventy to 80 knots, so it’s kinda like a car coming at you on the highway!” says Tom.
What makes these boats so fast is their foils. Those are special wings under the boat that lift it out of the water. One wrong move could spell disaster. The Australians had a close call. Going 50 to 60 mph to a sudden stop is dangerous. Luckily for the Australians, no one was hurt.
Australian Skipper, Tom Slingsby seemed to be pushing the boat pretty hard for a practice race.
“Yeah, I mean, you gotta practice like you race,” he says.
The Chinese boat hit the water so hard, their wing was damaged. It will take days to make repairs.
Meanwhile, conditions were hard for all the boats with high winds and rough bay waves. Boats were struggling to maintain control and the decision was made to shorten the day.
“In a foiling boat. Waves are your arch enemy really,” says Slingsby.
The real racing starts this weekend on San Francisco bay.