Deadline Abu Dhabi

New year, new racecourse: first ever Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix and first event of 2024 13 & 14 January.

13 January 2024


It’s only 12 days into the New Year and the 10 SailGP Teams are already back onboard and gearing up for the first event of the new year; the first ever Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council (13 & 14 January).

The event follows the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix in December, which saw a dramatic three-boat-wide race to the finish line, as New Zealand pipped Australia and Canada to claim the victory.

The UAE capital marks the 7th stop of Season 4 and it looks set to be another light wind, flat-water event, that makes it testing for the F50 and crews.

Across the SailGP fleet there are some changes for the first event of 2024; last week Sir Ben Ainslie announced he was stepping down as driver of Emirates GBR, with double Olympic gold medallist, Giles Scott, stepping in to replace him.


ROCKWOOL Denmark SailGP Team will also have a new face on the wheel, Swiss SailGP Team sailing advisor, Nathan Outteridge, is on loan to the Danes to replace driver Nicolai Sehested who misses the event. Outteridge has been supporting the Swiss on and off the water since Season 3.

Tom Slingsby has rejoined the Australia SailGP Team for the seventh event of the season, with the Aussies battling light air conditions in the final day of practice ahead of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

Leading the league by 11 points and continuing their journey to the four-peat, three-time defending champions Australia are eager to secure their first win of the season and retain their place at the top of the Season 4 Championship leaderboard.

Speaking on his return, Slingsby said he was thrilled to be back in the driver seat for the green and gold after missing the Dubai race for the birth of his first son, Leo.

“It’s great to be here in Abu Dhabi. I’m looking forward to competing in uncharted waters for the first time and delivering some strong results. The team is in fine form and we each have a newfound fire in our bellies to finish first, having come so close to winning last month.”

“We’re preparing for a light weekend, and the calibre of racing we saw in Dubai showed how exciting light winds can be. You can have a spectacular event even in lighter venues which, in sailing, no one thought could be possible,” Slingsby said.

“We’ve been sailing unbelievably this year. We have a big lead and we are thankful for that. The win will come and hopefully it’s this weekend, especially as it’s our last race before we return to home waters for the Sydney event.”

Tom Slingsby also put the younger SailGP drivers on notice at the press conference, when asked if it was time for Ben Ainslie and Jimmy Spithill to retire to allow the next generation to compete in the league.

“To be honest, I think a lot of the younger generation haven’t stepped up to the plate as much as they could have and they’ve got to prove it. Jimmy and Ben are in their mid 40s and were still winning SailGP events consistently and most of the new, young generation driving in our league haven’t won an event in SailGP.

“When you’re the next generation, you’ve got to prove why you’re the best in the world and knock us old guys off the perch. The new guys have the opportunity, they’re out there and have a boat to drive in SailGP, the top sailing league in the world, and they’ve got to take that opportunity with both hands or they’ll be replaced.”

Swiss driver Sebastien Schneiter said: “It’s great to start the new year with a new venue and some new faces in the fleet!

“We were happy with how we wrapped up 2023. We made some good progress last month in Dubai and there’s a lot of good energy in the team, so the aim is to continue this momentum and keep pushing for even more improvements here in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s great to have some new drivers in the fleet to line up against and help to push us even more! It will be fun to race against Nathan [Outteridge] and the Danish team. He’s one of the top sailors in the world and has been a great support to our team, helping to get us to where we are now. Giles [Scott] is also super talented, so we’re looking forward to racing against him for the first time too.”

2024 is a big year for Schneiter with the 49er World Championships in Lanzarote (4 to 10 March), a key event in the lead up to Paris 2024 this summer – his third consecutive Olympic Games.

“It’s not in any way a slow start to 2024, after Abu Dhabi I head straight to Lanzarote to continue training in the 49er [with crew Arno de Planta] as we have the Worlds coming up in March. Then we continue training and racing right up until the Games this summer. SailGP is a unique opportunity and it’s great to have the experience of racing both the F50 and 49er, it’s really complimentary.”

Fellow Swiss SailGP Teammate, Maud Jayet, is also campaigning for Paris 2024 in the Laser Radial class. She finished 4th at the ILCA-6 World Championships in Argentina this week.

The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council takes place 13 & 14 January, with five fleet races scheduled across the two days, followed by a three-team winner takes all showdown on Sunday afternoon.

Racing takes place this weekend, 11:00 – 12:30 CET / 14:00 – 15:30 GST daily. How to watch around the world HERE.

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