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Sail GP is bringing an event to Halifax for their 2024 season. Photo: Sail GP Media Files.

High-speed sailboat race comes to Halifax next weekend

By Jacob Moore May 23, 2024 | 5:58 PM

World-class sailing is coming to Canada for the first time in the Halifax harbour.

Ten teams from across the globe will race 50-foot catamarans, which can reach up to 100 km/h, in the Rockwool Sail Grand Prix. Races happen June 1st and 2nd from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. both days.

Billy Gooderham, from Halifax, is the flight controller for team Canada in the race. He says the support from Halifax and from across the country is great.

“The messages of support, you know, really resonate with everybody as a team, and we’re working hard to make sure that we put on a good show and hopefully are celebrating on Sunday afternoon with everybody,” says Gooderham.

Tickets for the grandstand sold out in six minutes, says Gooderham, the fastest in Sail GP history.

However, people will be able to watch from anywhere along the waterfront. Gooderham imagines all sorts restaurants and bars will have the race on TV, including one by his house. A worker there saw him in a Sail GP hat and told him they would have the race on, he says.

A page on the Sail GP website explains where to watch the event.

The city council approved a request for two helicopters to fly over the race and broadcast above the harbour, according to a news release.

There are also “bring your own boat” tickets. People can sail into the exclusion zone in the harbour, with a flag provided by Sail GP, and watch from what they say is the best vantage point.

A family of sailors

Gooderham’s father and grandfather were also professional competitive sailors, competing in the Olympics multiple times. After World War Two, Gooderham’s grandfather donated a training sailboat to the military.

He says the navy reached and asked if someone from Gooderham’s family wanted to watch the race from the boat, and he says his father jumped at the opportunity.

Gooderham grew up around sailing, but the sport really stuck with him because of what he calls “delayed gratification.”

“You’ve got to put in a ton of work and you don’t really see the gains of that until a long way down the road,” says Gooderham.

“I enjoy working on things piece by piece, and then years down the road, you see the benefit of all that work you did previously … It’s super rewarding.”

He also loves being on the water and all the aspects of sailing.

A challenging track

When they race, typically they do it in near the coast, but the Halifax harbour is different because it’s one of the tightest courses the teams will see this season.

Although it’s rare for boats to crash, he says it’s a highly competitive and high-speed sport. Racers always want to avoid other boats, but it will be a bit more of a challenge in Halifax.

As flight controller, Gooderham says it’s like he controls the up and down movement of the boat, or how far it is out of the water. The higher out of the water, the faster it goes, he says. Team Canada’s driver, Phil Robertson, turns the boat left and right.

The team also has strategist Annie Haeger and grinder Tom Ramshaw.

Gooderham says this is Canada’s first Sail Grand Prix, and it’s super special to have it here.

“When you look at the city of Halifax in the province of Nova Scotia, and really the entire country, the buy in to support the home team is just amazingly huge.”