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US SailGP team trains on American waters for 1st time

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. SailGP team trained on American waters for the first time Monday after launching its new-look F50 foiling catamaran on San Francisco Bay in advance of the fledgling global league’s second regatta.

“It was nice to get back on the boat after almost a couple of months now,” skipper and helmsman Rome Kirby said in a phone interview. “There are a lot of new systems, a lot of new stuff to test, so it was good to get out and go around the south bay a little bit.”

The U.S. team finished last in the six-boat fleet in the inaugural regatta in February in Sydney, although it had a chance to finish third going into the final race.

The other five teams will launch this week and the San Francisco regatta will be sailed May 4-5. Australia, led by America’s Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist Tom Slingsby, won the opening regatta.

The U.S. boat now features graphics of the Statue of Liberty on the wingsail and hulls.

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“I think our graphics in Sydney were a little plain, a little boring, so hopefully new look will mean a new result, a better result,” Kirby said.

SailGP was founded by tech billionaire Larry Ellison and New Zealander Russell Coutts, a five-time America’s Cup winner. The new league took three 50-foot foiling catamarans from the 2017 America’s Cup and redesigned and re-engineered them, and built three new ones.

The F50 catamarans are capable of going faster than 50 knots (57.5 mph).

Kirby said there are several new systems to test.

“As it usually does, it will have growing pains,” he said. “We’ll get there.”

Kirby helped Oracle Team USA win the America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay in 2013, when the U.S.-based team rallied from an 8-1 deficit to win eight straight races against Emirates Team New Zealand.

“I love the bay and I think our whole team enjoys sailing here,” Kirby said. “It was pretty exciting. Today was a good day. We have another few weeks to learn as much as we can and go win the regatta.”

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/berniewilson

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