The Kiwis will be feeling the heat this weekend when SailGP makes its middle eastern debut at the Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas. Unfolding over two action-packed days of racing under sweltering Emirate skies, the event kicks off tomorrow (Sat) at 1500 local time (midnight Sunday NZDT).
New Zealand enters the weekend second on the leaderboard overall, just four points behind two-time SailGP champions Australia. But Driver Peter Burling insists the Aussies aren’t the only thing in New Zealand’s sights.
Asked about the brewing trans-Tasman rivalry at this morning’s pre-event media conference, Burling said, “To be honest, the overall standings aren’t the only thing we’re focused on. We’re here to achieve the best results we can at every event and we’re here to play the long game, aiming for that season final [in San Francisco].”
The Dubai Sail Grand Prix marks the first event of the Asia-Pacific leg of the SailGP championship which includes first-time events in Dubai (Nov), Singapore (Jan 23) and Ōtautahi, Christchurch (Mar) as well as a return to the iconic Sydney Harbour (Feb). Backed by a dominant run in Europe, New Zealand will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing sixth-place finish in Cádiz.
“For us as a team, we’re always trying to develop and move forward. We’re definitely frustrated by our results in Cádiz but that said, we’ve learned a whole heap from it and will be a lot better as a unit because of it.”
The stage is set for two glamour days of sailing on Mina (Port) Rashid in the heart of the United Arab Emirates, with smooth waters, consistent breeze and a short course shaping up to deliver plenty of boat-on-boat action as nine teams battle to break away from the fleet.
“Light breeze and a tight course will make for tricky conditions out there this weekend,” said Burling. “But that should mean plenty of good action for spectators too.”
And with only a few tickets remaining on Saturday and championship Sunday already sold out, teams will compete in front of packed crowds of cheering fans just inches from the breakwater - making for the stadium-style racing SailGP was built for.
Kiwis can catch all the action LIVE on Sky Sport NZ at midnight (Sun NZDT), with the first replays served up at 0730 the next day. Racing will be available live and on-demand on YouTube.