Season 4’s opening battle got underway in Chicago, with the 10-strong flying F50 fleet going head to head for glory on the waters of Lake Michigan.
SailGP’s return to Chicago set the stage for Germany’s racing debut, with new driver Erik Heil taking the wheel for the first time.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Spithill’s United States was under pressure to perform after a disappointing performance in Season 3.
However, strong winds forced the cancellation of practice day, meaning the fleet had no chance to warm up ahead of racing. It was all to play for when race day one dawned, with the F50s fighting it out across three fleet races.
It was a superb day for three-time Champions Australia, who secured two race wins and bounced back from a disastrous start in the second fleet race at the back of the fleet to finish fifth.
Phil Robertson’s Canada also overcame off-water ownership issues to finish the day with a 3-1-5 record, while Season 3 runner-up New Zealand was also among the top teams, finishing with 4-2-2 results.
Erik Heil’s Germany had a solid racing debut, competing with the mid-fleet and even placing as high as 4th during the first fleet race.
But it was a disappointing day for Jimmy Spithill’s home team, which finished the day behind Germany with 9-10-6 results.
Light wind conditions and the largest 29m wing challenged crews as the second day of racing dawned, but after two more fleet races, Australia, New Zealand and Canada were confirmed to move into the three-boat Final.
With barely any wind, crews worked tactically to find the best positioning around the the course, but it was Peter Burling’s New Zealand which clinched the first event victory of the season, taking the top spot on the overall Championship leaderboard.
The F50 fleet will meet again at the Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix on July 22-23.