SailGP’s groundbreaking coaching development

by Miranda Blazeby, Digital Editor SailGP

SailGP coaches have opened up about the league’s newly introduced pit lane-style coaching station, which was trialled for the first time in Cádiz.

The coaching teams, which previously watched the racing from on-water chase boats, were moved ashore to reduce on-water emissions. In Saint-Tropez, they watched racing from their team containers before the launch of the league’s groundbreaking pit lane-style coaching station in Cádiz.

The advantages of the new arrangement are clear, according to data analyst David Rey, with coaches ‘able to use screens away from movements and sunlight’. This makes the data dashboards ‘more readable’, giving the coaches a ‘better tactical view of the racing’. “They now have a clear idea of the boundaries and a bird’s eye view of the racing on a dedicated app,” Rey explained. “They also have live videos of all the available cameras, and are able to scroll back and forth to review situations.”

The communication between coaches and crew is also ‘a lot clearer’, Rey says, with all the interfering noise of ‘the motor, the wind and the waves’ eliminated.

Positioned in the heart of the Race Stadium, the coaching station has an elevated view of the racecourse, allowing coaches a greater understanding of the conditions on the water than they would have in their team containers.

Rey said feedback from coaches following the concept’s first trial in Cádiz was ‘overwhelmingly positive’.

Australia’s Ben Durham agreed, describing the new arrangement as a ‘big development in the sport of sailing’. “To be able to be on the sea wall and have all the data live in front of you and be able to communicate that clearly to the athletes is great,” he said.

Spanish coach Simone Salva agreed, describing the arrangement as the ‘best set up possible in coaching’. “The comms were good, the system – software and hardware – was working well in the container, but the upgrade of being able to see with the water and where the boats are with my eyes is perfect.”

Swiss coach Jacopo Plazzi agreed that the improved comms from the shore to the athletes was ‘a great plus’. “We are more effective, we see more data, can follow the races better and have the ability to quickly review key moments’.

While reserve Swiss athlete Jérémy Bachelin pointed to the amount of information at coaches’ fingertips. “We have data, different videos from the boat, from the helicopter, from the race management – there is a lot of information to gather and analyze,” he said.

However, both Plazzi and Salva said a lack of face-to-face interaction with the athletes was the only downside to the new arrangement.

“You lose the psychological part of coaching – not having the human contact with the athletes,” Plazzi said.

Salva added: “The only thing that is missing is being able to see the sailors in person in-between the races, but obviously this is not possible – the good points are so many with this set up compared to being on the RIB – it’s way better.”

Looking ahead, the coaches said they were keen to see further development of the concept, with Salva voicing a desire to change the communication channels.

“The next step is being able to speak with just one athlete and not the whole team every time I’m speaking,” he said.

Bachelin agreed this could be fine-tuned for more efficient communication with athletes.

“There is already communication between the six athletes on board, so it’s a bit difficult for the coach to jump into the comms loop or dive advice during the racing – that’s something we need to work on as a team if we keep the structure of the coaching booth.”

The F50 fleet will next meet for battle at the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas on December 9-10.

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