British SailGP team breaks 50-knot barrier during training

COWES, England (AP) — Dylan Fletcher and his British crew became the first SailGP team to break the 50-knot speed barrier, flying their foiling 50-foot catamaran at 50.22 knots (57.8 mph/93 kph) Tuesday during training on the Solent for this weekend’s regatta.

The British crew initially reported that it hit 49.54 knots off Egypt Point on the Isle of Wight. But SailGP data analyst Scott Babbage interrupted the debrief to inform the sailors that the higher-frequency data pulled off the F50 showed they hit 50.22 knots.

Tom Slingsby’s Australian team had been just shy of hitting 50 knots during training in New Zealand before the league launched earlier this year.

“We’re always trying to push the boundaries, and to be honest, it feels pretty wicked to get a notch up on Tom Slingsby,” Fletcher said. “Cowes has a long history of hosting iconic sailing events and we knew this stretch of water, with the right conditions, could set us up well for breaking this record. It’s unbelievable how far sailing has progressed in the last few years and SailGP and these F50s really represent the next generation of our sport. We now can’t wait to hit it again in racing and really showcase these fantastic boats.”

Russell Coutts, a five-time America’s Cup champion and SailGP’s co-founder, said on his Facebook page that the league would only recognize speeds during racing as official.

That could happen during the competition Saturday and Sunday on the Solent, where in 1851 the schooner America beat a fleet of British ships around the Isle of Wight to win the silver trophy that became the America’s Cup.

Fletcher’s crew includes Chris Draper, Stuart Bithell, Matt Gotrel, Neil Hunter and Richard Mason.

The British are third behind Japan and Australia in the six-team league. The league wraps up its first season in Marseille, France, from Sept. 20-22. That regatta will culminate with a $1 million, winner-take-all race between the top two teams.