14 August 2020 08:01am By Daniel Smith Final field set for eSailGP Grand Final The stage is set for the inaugural eSailGP Grand Final. In less than 12 hours, eight fierce competitors – representing five nations – will go head-to-head on the virtual waters of New York to win ultimate eSailing bragging rights and a chance to ride one of SailGP’s record-breaking F50 catamarans in real life. Following a year-long championship that started in February 2020 and consisted of seven qualifying events, eight players representing France, Great Britain, Greece, Spain and Turkey have outshone thousands of gamers for the chance to play in the live eSailGP Grand Final, taking place at 21:00 BST, Friday August 14.
The final player to join the line-up was decided at Cowes eSailGP just 24 hours before the Grand Final. With just one remaining place, tensions were high and it resulted in one of the hardest fought match race finals. Eventually it was experienced Greek eSailor Ioannis Kokonias ‘GRE-9’ who won out, to secure the final spot.
With a number of decorated eSailing champions, the racing is guaranteed to be close. Early favorites include Kaan Mazlumca ‘Havuc’ of Turkey, who previously competed at the eSailing World Championship in 2018 and 2019, placing fourth and sixth. Miguel Cruz Ruiz of Spain will also be one to watch. Known in the virtual world as ‘Cruzolator,’ Ruiz placed sixth at the 2018 eSailing World Championship.
Another strong contender will be SailGP’s own Joan Cardona. A grinder with the Spain SailGP Team, Cardona is a relative newcomer to eSailing, having started in March this year, however, he has already tasted success, winning an eSailing event set up by the Spanish Sailing Federation. He will be hoping his in-depth knowledge of the F50 in real life will transfer to the virtual race course.
Joining the seven other qualifiers will be wild card entry Ana Porres of Spain. One of the top female gamers, Ana was selected as the leading youth entry for the Grand Final.
Porres said: “I am really excited to be participating and the chance to win the opportunity to sail on the F50 as I have been following all of the races, so that would just be a dream. However, there are a lot of very good players, so I will need to be very focused.
“I am also excited to be representing female eSailors. Currently there are not that many who play, so I am hoping that I can also show that women can compete too, especially as it doesn’t depend on the physical aspect, but instead intellect and knowledge.”
The eight finalists will compete in three fleet races using the eF50, racing on a virtual New York race course – a venue that is notoriously tricky for its changing wind shifts and wind strength. The two players with the most points after three races will meet in a winner-takes-all match race. Not only will the victor be crowned the first ever eSailGP champion, but will also gain automatic qualification for the eSailing World Championship Final. The prizes don’t stop there, as the winner will also get the ultimate on-water experience, a ride on the world’s fastest sail race boat – the F50 – joining a team when the SailGP season restarts in 2021.
SailGP COO Julien di Biase said, “When we launched eSailGP in February 2020, we could never have imagined how quickly the landscape would change over the following months, and it has been really great to see the popularity of eSailing grow. It has been an exciting way to deliver racing action to our fans during SailGP’s hiatus and the live final is going to be a fantastic culmination of this. We have some very talented eSailors taking part, alongside one of our current SailGP athletes, so it is certainly going to be exciting to watch, and we look forward to continuing to build on the success of eSailing in the coming years.”
The eSailGP Grand Final will be streamed live on World Sailing’s eSailing Facebook page at 21:00 BST – https://www.facebook.com/eSailingWorldChampionship/. Thomas Bjørn-Lüthi and Alec Wilkinson will serve as hosts alongside guest commentator and Japan SailGP Team athlete Leo Takahashi.
2020 eSailGP Grand Final
August 14, 21:00 BST / 22:00 CET.
Live on Facebook