Paul Goodison explains how to fly a foil F50 in SailGP

Ahead of this weekend’s Great Britain SailGP in Plymouth, British coxswain Paul Goodison shares what it’s like to ride a foiling F50 catamaran

Paul Goodison is one of the most talented foiling sailors around – he is a three-time World Moth World Champion and was a mainsail trimmer on the American Magic AC75 at the America’s Cup in this year, playing the same role on the Artemis Racing foiling catamaran in the previous Cup. . Oh and he’s also an Olympic gold medalist. But until a few weeks ago he had never raced on the SailGP circuit – which makes it all the more difficult to get back behind the wheel of Ben Ainslie’s foiling F50 for the Great Britain SailGP Team.

After winning the season opener in Bermuda, Ainslie retired from the circuit for two events (he recently ad adding their second child to the Ainslie family, congratulations to Ben and his wife Georgie), passing the baton to Goodison for the Italian leg of the tour.

We spoke to ‘Goody’, as he’s widely known, just before the start of the third SailGP event in Plymouth, UK, which kicks off tomorrow.

“It’s very new,” he explains. “My role at Artemis a long time ago was as a backup coxswain at the start, then I ended up being a wing trimmer when it came to the 50.

“Then the last time around I did a reasonable amount of driving the AC75 right from the start when Dean [Barker] was out, we traded a bit, and then I raced as a wing trimmer in the last America’s Cup. Going into this kind of fleet regatta with eight boats and taking starts is quite exciting and quite different from what I’m used to.

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“So it was a steep learning curve, I guess, in Taranto, but a good one.” The British team finished 6th in Italy, with Nathan Outteridge sailing past the Japanese team to win, but a mixed series saw the usual Australian favorites, with Tom Slingsby finishing 8th.

Learn to sail on the F50 foil

Previously, many SailGP teams were able to hone their skills on a highly sophisticated simulator at Artemis Techologies in the UK, but due to Goodison’s busy schedule he had to learn the foiling F50 for real.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to go to the simulator! It would have been really nice, but it was just a matter of being thrown in the deep end.

“But the other guys, the whole team, from the shore team to the sail team here, is great. So it was a lot easier than it would have been, I guess, if I had been there with a less experienced team. ”

One of the biggest challenges of racing in Taranto was that with light winds each crew was reduced from five to three (removing the grinders on board) to allow the F50s to foil at a lower wind speed.

“Navigate with three [an option taken by the teams to reduce crew weight in very light winds] the first day last time was a real challenge and something that I probably didn’t understand as fast as I needed. But there are some good lessons there. And if we end up in the deep threesome, we have a much better idea of ​​how we’re going to tackle it this weekend. But hopefully the breeze will come and we’ll be at full strength with the big guys up front. “

“It’s incredible when you think of sailing a 50-foot catamaran at 25 knots upwind and 35 to 40 knots downwind, with only three guys. It’s actually really, really rewarding when you get it right – but really frustrating when you don’t.

“I think as soon as the two big guys come down you realize whatever they’re doing besides just correcting the wing sheet!” They actually play a big role in steering the boat through maneuvering and jib adjustment. So that just adds a lot more load to the three guys who are left on board. “

“This is when we need a few octopuses up front!”

“Looking back on the last event, it really rewarded the coxswain who spent a lot of time piloting the boats in the America’s Cup in Bermuda. You could see how well Nathan and Jimmy were able to pilot the boat and use a dedicated chopper, as all the other teams shared the role of flight control between a flight controller and the coxswain, and alternated between the choppers. . And that transition is never easy, so the Japanese and the Americans had a little edge, I think. But again, it all depends on the practice.

The Great Britain SailGP team helmed by interim skipper Paul Goodison ahead of Italy SailGP, event 2, season 2 in Taranto, Italy. Photo: Bob Martin for SailGP

The foiled F50s are all identical, so coming from the America’s Cup – where each crew member had custom orders – meant a quick adaptation for Goodison.

“In the flight control position, it has the ability to do both the foils and the rudders, then in the helmsman position on the steering wheel, you have a rotating handle that makes the opposite board fly.

“You also have foot buttons in the cockpit that you press to add or take off the rudder, as well as buttons on the steering wheel to add or remove a differential.

So I guess the biggest challenge is that I spent a couple of years getting my buttons where I wanted them to be and getting used to them, trying to relearn everything.

“When you’re looking to find a button rather than just moving your leg or arm automatically, it’s a very different feeling. It’s like trying to find where the indicator rod is or trying to find where a car’s clutch is – while flying at 30 knots and having water on your face! “

Fast learning curve

The foiled F50s also undergo a series of continuous evolutions to keep the level of development of the fleet at a high level – something Paul Goodison has found particularly marked since he sailed the AC50s in their previous incarnation in Bermuda. .

“The most important thing is how far the boats have come since they took part in the America’s Cup. The performance is better. The control systems are much better. And with the dedicated flight controller, the boats are more stable and faster. So it’s a real pleasure to drive, it’s a lot of fun! “

There is speculation that new, larger sails could roll out of the hangar for this weekend in Plymouth, giving the F50s another power boost lower in the wind range.

Photo: Bob Martin for SailGP

Another element of SailGP’s development agenda is that all data is shared between teams, another big change for Goodison after the cape and dagger spy world of Auckland.

“It’s just super interesting. You spend the last two or three years desperately trying to figure out what other boats are doing, trying to compare with what you are doing, seeing if you can speed up your learning. And then you come into the SailGP world from the America’s Cup world, and you can literally just look at the reports at the end of the day.

“There is a well-compiled report for each day, with data from all eight boats. So it’s pretty easy to spot the trends and see the differences.

“I guess the takeaway from real light winds for us, looking at the data, is that we probably sailed in a slightly slower and higher mode. Which meant our VMG out of the rim was probably not as good as, say, the Americans or Australians who sailed much faster in the water. But in some areas we had better VMG, in some areas they would make a gain.

“So it’s really interesting to be able to piece it all together and realize what you can try new things. Although in reality, on the water, there isn’t much time to put many of these ideas into practice, you just have to go with your instinct! “

“Plus having eight boats there makes it super exciting. The race is never over, the race is never won. It looks a bit more like the Moth race or, I guess, the Laser race I did years ago. It’s really fun. “

The eight foil F50s training on Plymouth Sound ahead of the Great Britain Sail GP event on July 16-17

In anticipation of the Plymouth event this weekend, Goodison said: “I think it’s going to be awesome, it’s a very natural amphitheater here so you’re going to be able to get some height and get a good view of the sky. race.

“About the same, I guess, as in Auckland. So I think if you come to watch you have to get really close and get a great view.

“And for me, I think the sailing is going to be fantastic. We have a good forecast – maybe a little lighter for the weekend, but hopefully the sea breeze arrives and we should have some good races. “

Watch the Great Britain Sail GP online on Sky Sports or YouTube from 2:00 p.m. on Saturday July 17 and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday July 18. Learn more on

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