The New Zealand SailGP Team took to the iconic waters of the Great Sound today for its first training session ahead of the SailGP Season 3 opener – the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess on May 14 and 15.
Unveiling a striking new livery to mark the start of the season, there was no easing back into things for the New Zealand team as they faced wet and windy conditions during a three hour outing.
Wing trimmer Blair Tuke said: “It was awesome getting out on the Great Sound. We were straight into it at the top end of the range but the team went really well. We were able to push the boat reasonably hard in those conditions and it’s now back in the shed in good shape which is always a good thing.
“Amokura looks great with the blue bows and the fern on the boat. Last season we raced with the blue fern on the wing and while that design will stay when we have the bigger wings installed, we really wanted to bring the blue fern down onto the boat as well and reinforce our connection to the ocean that we race on and for.”
The New Zealand SailGP Team has named an unchanged roster for Season 3, with Peter Burling (driver), Erica Dawson (women’s pathway), Marcus Hansen (grinder), Josh Junior (grinder), Liv Mackay (women’s pathway), Andy Maloney (flight controller), Louis Sinclair (grinder) and Blair Tuke (wing trimmer) making up the squad.
Ray Davies also continues as coach after joining the team at the United States Sail Grand Prix in March. For the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix, Josh Junior returns to the team after missing the last event due to knee surgery, while Andy Maloney remains in New Zealand as he and his wife are expecting their first baby. James Wierzbowski, who was with the team for three events during Season 2, will take over as flight controller in Bermuda.
Tuke said: “It’s really exciting to be here in Bermuda with Season 3 ahead of us. We’ve got a good platform to build on and an unchanged squad from last season. There’s been a lot of learning and progression throughout that time that we can take into this season. It all starts here and we can’t wait to get stuck in.”
Tuke said while the team still has plenty of areas to improve on, there are higher expectations in Season 3. “There are a lot of areas we still need to be better at to be the team we want to be and pushing at the front of the fleet. We want to be in the Grand Final race in San Francisco at the end of Season 3 so we’ll keep working hard in all areas to improve as a unit.”
Already comprising the sport’s best athletes, the competition becomes even fiercer in Season 3 with two new franchise teams added to the lineup, Canada and Switzerland.
Tuke said: “It's really exciting that a couple more teams have joined the league. As you saw last season the level is very close at the top and there’s not much difference between first and last so now with two extra teams it makes it even more challenging. You’re going to have to be really consistent across the board so it’s super exciting and we’re looking forward to racing against them.”
One of the casualties from the new teams joining the league is Nathan Outteridge’s Japan team. Runner-up in both Season 1 and 2, Outteridge finds himself without a boat for the start of the season with only nine boats available due to a series of external factors that has meant the tenth boat cannot be completed in time. In order for Canada to enter the league, the Japan SailGP Team will sit out the first events of the season.
Despite the teams training in a strong breeze today, conditions are expected to be much lighter for racing over the weekend which will add an extra challenge.
Tuke said: “All of San Francisco was windy and the majority of the build up here in Bermuda is windy too so we’re likely going to be thrust straight into lighter airs on race day. But it’s the same for everyone and it’ll be the team that adapts the quickest and gets the most out of the boat that will find themselves at the front of the fleet.”