Communication is key to sailing the F50

Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner
April 9, 2020

How do you race an F50? Well, it’s not just what you do, it’s about what you say.

Good communication is key to success in most sports – and none more so than SailGP – the fastest sailing event on the planet.

With seven foiling F50s flying above the water at speeds of up to 100 km/hr, every millisecond and inch counts – and in SailGP, a good start can be the difference between winning and losing.

“A good start in these boats is absolutely key – and it will only get more important as the racing gets better and the teams get faster and faster,” explains Denmark SailGP Team helmsman Nicolai Sehested.

“If you get in front at the start and you get out ahead of the fleet, the race just gets easier and easier as it goes on. But if you’re at the back of the fleet, and you’re putting your elbows out after 10 seconds, it’s going to be a tough 10-12 minutes trying to make progress.”

Listen in on the Denmark SailGP team's communication aboard the F50

Denmark SailGP team in Sydney

ROCKWOOL Group - sailgp comms video

Rasmus Køstner, who takes on the role of Flight Controller onboard the Denmark SailGP Team, adds that the first few seconds of the race can sometimes be the toughest when racing against the best on-water athletes on the planet.

“Starts are so difficult to get right, as there are so many elements in place,” he said. “We’ve had starts where 99% of things are perfect, but one percent is not quite there, and before you know it you’re a second or two behind the others.

“There’s a lot to work on, and you’re making decisions quickly on the fly. There are times you wish you could do the start again and change on little factor.”

So what’s the secret of a good start? For Sehested – who has raced two round-the-world races and is the youngest helmsman in the SailGP fleet – good communication is one of the most important elements of sailing these boats fast.

“Many people talk about the importance of communication, but the truth is it is a very difficult thing to become good at,” he says. “To be an efficient team, you should say as little as possible, whilst making sure you never leave out anything important.”

He adds: “It all comes down to teamwork – these boats are impossible to sail unless you work 100% and become really coordinated. Everything has to work together.”