The second event of the five-stage SailGP circuit sailed with six national teams last weekend on San Francisco Bay. A large contingent of Long Beach fans was on hand to see the newly redefined F50 wing sailed catamarans, which fly above the water on wave-piercing hydrofoils at speeds of more than 50 knots (60 mph).
Team Australia took top honors with Japan a close second, followed by Great Britain, United States, France and China.
The boats are engineered to be identical in every respect, designed to produce close, heart-stopping racing, with advanced audiovisual technology.
The 36 sailors are the best in the world; they are world champions, Olympic medalists and America’s Cup winners. Long Beach is well represented by Riley Gibbs, who is a member of the US Sailing Team and is currently campaigning in the foiling Nacra 17 catamaran with an eye toward the 2020 Olympics.
With Mother’s Day weekend approaching, I spoke to Gibbs and three other competitors about their Mom’s role in their sailing careers. Gibbs’s mom supported him in choosing sailing as his sport, and he said, “She has allowed me to have the freedom to venture out and make mistakes on my own.”
Taylor Canfield, four-time Long Beach Congressional Cup winner, is the flight controller for Team USA. A world-renowned skipper in both mono and multihull sailing, he is campaigning for the 36th America’s Cup Stars & Stripes Team USA, under the Long Beach YC burgee, after two years competing on the Extreme Sailing Series.
When asked about his mom, who excelled on the track as the fastest woman runner in her high school, Canfield said, “She is awesome… She has always pushed to be a better athlete — stronger and faster. I got my competitive attributes from her.”
From nearby Coronado, team USA grinder Hans Henken is a member of the US Sailing Team, and currently campaigning for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on the 49er having just missed out in qualifying for Rio in 2016.
A graduate from Stanford University, Henken earned a master’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, which no doubt has come in handy in his role as alternate flight controller for the team.
“My mom has been the best supporter of my sailing," he said. "She is the reason why I got into sailing in the first place and she is always super supportive of what I’m doing.”
According to Henken, her best advice to him was, “Trust in the process and believe that it will all work itself out in the end.”
On the first day of SailGP in San Francisco, all three races were won by Team Japan. On the final race of the day, they lost all electronics on board. One of the grinders on board is 20-year-old Leo Takahashi, the youngest competitor in all the teams in SailGP.
As a skipper, he finished fourth in last year’s Ficker Cup hosted by Long Beach YC and became a crowd favorite early on.
Born in Atami, a seaside town in Japan, Takahashi started sailing at age 9. He was encouraged or maybe forced by his father, who was a member of the first Japanese America’s Cup Challenger. He quickly began to show talent, but his “don’t give up” attitude came from his mom.
Takahashi said, “My mum has been there every step of the way, from cooking to driving me when I was younger. She’s been very encouraging even when I took time off school. And she’s been to every big major event to support me.”
He continued, “She is very competitive; she’s always been the competitor one and never backed away from getting one up on me.”
Isn't that what mothers are for? Happy Mother’s Day to all.