SAINT-TROPEZ, France (AP) — Jimmy Spithill’s Team USA welcomed back wing trimmer Paul Campbell-James from a broken leg and won two of the three fleet races Saturday in SailGP’s regatta on the French Riviera.
While the American team positioned itself well to reach Sunday’s podium race, Tom Slingsby’s Team Australia had its hopes of a third straight regatta win in the global league dashed when it sustained a series of technical setbacks aboard its foiling 50-foot catamaran. The defending champion Aussies, who came in with a two-point lead in the season standings, were last in the eight-boat fleet.
The U.S. team has 20 points, followed by New Zealand with 17. Spain has 16, Japan 16, Great Britain 13, Denmark 12, France 7 and Australia 7.
After two more fleet races Sunday, the top three teams advance to the podium race.
Sir Ben Ainslie’s British team won the opening race before the United States won the next two races.
Crews were reduced from five to three due to light wind. Spithill sailed with Campbell-James and Andrew Campbell.
Campbell-James broke his right leg three weeks ago when he was thrown from the cockpit and landed on the wingsail in a training mishap the day before the regatta in Denmark began. After surgery, he followed an aggressive rehabilitation program to return to action.
“It’s been tough from day one this season,” said Spithill, a two-time America’s Cup champion. “I really want to give Paul a shoutout for how he recovered so quickly since snapping his fibula. Not a lot of people could do that. He’s an incredible team player, and also Andrew Campbell, it was his first go in the three-person setup today and he did a fantastic job as well.”
The American team has reached two podium races this season only to be beset by mishaps. It hit a submerged object in the regatta in Italy in early June and had rudder problems in the regatta in Britain in July. It was knocked out of the season-opening regatta in Bermuda when it was hit by Team Japan.
“If we can get through this event without hitting something, sinking or breaking another bone, that would be fantastic,” Spithill said.
The Australians sustained several hydraulic and electronic issues, forcing them to sail blind with no working software.
“We were hit with a perfect storm of issues today and it was very frustrating,” said Slingsby, an Olympic gold medalist and former America’s Cup champion who skippered the Aussies to the $1 million, winner-take-all inaugural SailGP title in 2019.
“Right from the first fleet race we were being faced with several issues, from having no software, daggerboards not going down and our entire system completely shutting down. We’d scramble to fix one issue between the races, only to find another issue pop up when we were racing,” he said.