The French Riviera was awash with drama on the first day of the Range Rover St Tropez Sail Grand Prix, with Tom Slingsby (Australia) and Peter Burling (New Zealand) sparring over a controversial incident.

Peter Burling’s New Zealand Team attacked the Australians with an aggressive manoeuvre in the first race, which saw the Flying Roo crash down in the water when going over 90 km/h in the final leg to lose all their speed and momentum - allowing the Kiwis to overtake them into the
winning position.

The Australia’s F50 sustained major damage to its fairings, which have a critical role in the performance of the boat during racing. No one expected the Australians to be able to make the following two races, but a miracle pit lane triage executed by the team’s shore crew and tech team enabled the Aussies to just make the second race of the day.

Tom Slingsby said: “We were literally just trying to get to that finish line safely in the first race, with these conditions we were side-slipping and had very little control. We would have happily given him the position and come in second, and unfortunately we now have a lot of damage
from an unnecessary incident.”

“To me him coming up at us like that is just unsafe. In that scenario it’s 50/50 as to whether people get seriously injured and I just don’t think it’s worth it for one point at the start of the event. He always seems to have a pretty warped view on this type of thing so it will be interesting to hear his thoughts”, Slingsby added.

New Zealand Driver and CEO Peter Burling was quick to throw barbs back at Slingsby during the media mixzone, offering a conflicting opinion on the incident.

“From our perspective we were overlapping to leewared for a very long time and they were closing the gauge down to us and we were fully within our rights to do what we did. We did exactly the same thing with Canada in the next reach and they got out of the way.”

“They were obviously pushing super hard for the win so it would have been easy for them to back off and not have an incident like that. We were definitely pretty surprised with how he (Tom) reacted on the radio comms.”

Slingsby quipped back at Burling’s comment saying: “I was frustrated on the radio comms, because I heard Peter saying that we bore away at him and caused the incident ourselves when it’s clear to see when you look at the helicopter footage and the onboard footage, they luffed us so in my opinion the incident could have been avoided. They chose to do that and then said it
didn’t happen which is why I reacted the way I did on radio.”

The shore team will now work through the night with SailGP’s tech team to repair the damage so that the boat is fit for the final race day of the Range Rover St Tropez Sail Grand Prix. The team are currently sitting in third place, and will need to perform consistently tomorrow to secure
a place in the final.

SailGP also confirmed that an extra fleet race has been added to the schedule for the second day of racing. There will now be four fleet races in total before the final, where the champion of the event will be crowned.