The age-old rivalry between Australia and New Zealand has reignited on the waters of Lake Michigan as SailGP Season 4 commenced with an exhilarating first day of racing. Both nations showcased their sailing prowess claiming the top spots on the leaderboard over the other eight battling nations.

In an electrifying display of talent, New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Australia’s Tom Slingsby left no doubt about their determination to outperform each other. With their high-performance F50 catamarans slicing through the water, the fierce rivals engaged in a drag race battle on the final fleet race of the day which was reminiscent of the Season 3 Grand Final in San Francisco.

Season 4 // Australia SailGP Team // Australia amongst the fleet in Chicago day 1

Tom Slingsby said: “We were trying to defend the Kiwis and they were going really quick and closing in on us in that last lap. We just managed to keep the lead on them to win that final fleet race. Based on their performance today it’s clear they will be our top competitor going into tomorrow.”

The Aussies’ effortless performance also saw them sail through the fleet and rebound from a catastrophic error on the start line of the second fleet race.

Season 4 // Australia SailGP Team // Close up of Australian F50 on first day of Chicago

Tom Slingsby said: “I had a shocker. I just got a bit chicken winged up there when I realised that I was going to hit the start line early so I had to bail up. But we managed to fight back from tenth place to fifth place in that race which is pretty good.”

Slingsby and the Aussies have taken the lead to secure the top seat following race day one with 26 points, one point ahead of New Zealand on 25 points. Phil Robertson’s Canada Team came in third with 24 points.

Season 4 // Australia SailGP Team // Australia sailing towards Navy Pier

Tom Slingsby said: “We sailed really well today. It was definitely a confidence boost and I’d say we sailed as well as we did in San Francisco last month, if you remove that one bad start in race two. We know we are in with a chance tomorrow and that’s all we can ask for.”

All is still to play for as the SailGP Season 4 opener continues tomorrow, with the final two fleet races being crucial to secure the Australians spot in the podium final. Racing will commence at 7am AEDT, with fans able to tune in from Australia on Fox Sports and Kayo Freebies.