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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s ….

by Betsy Senescu November 03, 2023

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a SailGP F50! These space-age sprinters featured in the November pages of the 2023 Ultimate Sailing Calendar graze over the water like low-flying aircraft: a thrill to race, watch and shoot!

November 2023 Ultimate Sailing Calendar



Sharon Green captured these images during the SailGP Series in San Francisco Bay: a great amphitheater for these super-sonic boats. Between the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the hills of Marin and stunning city front, add 360-degrees of spectacular backdrop to the excitement of the event.

The regatta was based at St. Francis Yacht Club with grandstands, a stage, VIP viewing platforms and live TV coverage. During the races the boats tore right up to the mark abreast the club; afterward they docked off the breakwater and teams were shuttled ashore for interviews. As far as sailing spectacles are concerned, this one is unparalleled!


But Sharon also pointed out SailGP offers a different set of challenges than your ‘typical’ regatta. “These races are short, fast and in a very confined area. And the boats are going so fast – you’ve got to be on your toes or you could easily miss the shot!”


“As a photographer you definitely need to apply for credentials ahead of time and register to be on a photo boat,” Sharon said, “otherwise you’re stuck on land or far outside the perimeter of the course.” Even so, photo boats are restricted in movement, and often just stay in one position as the boats whiz by. “Of course this is for the safety of the photographers and racers alike,” she added. “Can you believe these boats move at upwards of 60 MPH?!”


SailGP was first held in 2019, introduced as a global sports league featuring spectator-friendly inshore racing in iconic venues, with national teams competing for one-million dollars in prize money. Designed specifically for this event: the 78-foot long, 29-foot wide hyrdrofoiling F50 catamaran.


The vessel uses a vertically mounted airplane type wing as a sail (a 92-foot light air wing or 59-foot heavy air wing), plus hydrofoils to lift the boat out of the water to reduce drag. They are sailed by a crew of five which consists of the helmsperson, wing trimmer, flight controller and two grinders.


“With foiling boats it’s really hard to capture how fast they are going and how windy it might be,” Sharon noted. “They are so aero- and hydrodynamic, they don’t throw a lot of spray like a traditional hull would. You can’t tell it was actually blowing a hoolie when this was shot!”

 “But they do make a terrific, loud racket as they blast by,” she added with a grin.


This event was at the end of March, a very unpredictable time for sailing conditions. “The practice day and first race day were spectacular but Sunday, when the horizontal photo in the November calendar page was taken, was really tricky. The wind was all over the place and the Race Committee had to keep moving the marks. We also had to stop racing at one point as there was a whale on the course!”

“It was quite gray that day with just a pop of light here and there, so I used my Canon EOS R5 full-frame mirrorless camera with a 100-500mm lens, 1/5000 shutter, ISO 400, F5.6,” Sharon revealed.


The vertical inset image was taken on the Saturday with more typical sunny conditions, enabling her to use the Canon EOS R3 mirrorless body with a 200-400mm 1.4x extender, 1/5000 shutter, ISO 800, F6.3 


Currently in the SailGP rankings the Australian team has a strong lead with 43 points followed by Denmark, 36; and a three-way battle for third place between the US, Spain and GBR. But all that will change December 9 and 10, when the final SailGP event of the year takes place in Dubai! Check it out at https://sailgp.com.


But first: go to www.ultimatesailing.com and order the new 2024 Ultimate Sailing Calendar for yourself and your friends! It’s a stunning compilation of the most dramatic and dynamic images in the world of sailing, spanning from Sydney to Lanzarote, Bodrum, Turkey to the Southern Ocean and more. We’ve got it covered: searching the globe for the most thrilling competition, extraordinary boats and captivating venues for the 2024 edition. As always, the 18-inch by 24-inch (displayed) calendar is printed in North America on sturdy Forest Stewardship Council® responsibly sourced paper with eco-friendly soy-based inks for long-lasting enjoyment and durability. And don’t forget to check out Ultimate Sailing puzzles, notecards and totes – sure to please every sailor on your holiday shopping list!


Betsy Senescu
Betsy Senescu


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