The stage is set for a game of strategy on Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour this weekend and for front runners Australia, all eyes are on New Zealand.
Asked in this morning’s pre-event press conference whether the Aussies would be trying to win the event or keep the Kiwis off the podium, Australian driver Tom Slingsby did not shy away from the possibility of forming alliances with other team’s to knock out the Kiwis.
“It’s something that has been brought up,” Slingsby said. “We’re going to have a talk today about who we might want to try and help in the final, and who we want to take out of the final. It’s all part of the game and for sure the Kiwis are our biggest rival. They’ve won three events this season, they’ve beaten us in those final races multiple times and I think if Pete was in the same situation, he’d probably be going after us.”
With a 12-point lead ahead of New Zealand and the rest of the fleet, Australia seems - barring disaster - mathematically safe for a spot in the Season 3 grand final in San Francisco. New Zealand enters the weekend in second, with only three points separating the Kiwis from Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team in fourth. France sits just one point behind New Zealand in third after a standout performance in Sydney.
New Zealand was first to hit the water yesterday for a day of recommissioning following extensive repairs and a full electronic and hydraulic refit earlier this month. Heading into the team’s first-ever home event, driver Peter Burling downplayed any nerves.
“For us, it’s more excitement than pressure. It’s been a while since most of us raced in front of home fans and it’s going to be amazing to show them this format. We’re super excited to be back on Amokura and the tech team has done an amazing job of getting not only our boat here but everyone back on the start line for this event,” Burling said.
Today’s practice racing was called off due to high winds but Burling said he and the team couldn’t wait to get racing tomorrow in front of sold out crowds at Naval Point.
“It’s amazing to see how the event has come together and it really feels like a long time coming. To see the support of Christchurch as well as so many Kiwis who have travelled from outside the city has been awesome. It’s been an amazing journey to be on, and we’re really excited to get racing,” Burling said.
The ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix will be broadcast live on Sky Sport NZ between 3-4.30PM Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 March, and free-to-air on Three and ThreeNow - live on Saturday and with delayed coverage Sunday, 4.30-6.00PM.
While the event may be fully sold out, fans in Christchurch can catch all the action this weekend at the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix live site, powered by Enable, located at The Green between Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre and Cathedral Square.