Peter Burling suggested the umpires were 'soft' on Canada in the Final of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix, but conceded Phil Robertson's team 'sailed a great race' on their way to winning SailGP's first ever event in Christchurch.
Hosts New Zealand performed strongly throughout their home event, topping the fleet race leaderboard to qualify for the Final where they faced Canada and Australia.
The deciding showdown was largely a one-on-one match race between the Kiwis and the Canadians - as Australia were well back in third - with multiple lead changes throughout. The teams were neck-and-neck at the penultimate mark, and Burling must have thought victory was secured when Canada were hit with a completely avoidable boundary penalty that meant they had to lose 20m compared to the Kiwis a third of the way down the leg.
Nonetheless, Canada were moving faster through the water and made up the penalty distance to round the final mark in first - going on to win the race and deny New Zealand a victory on home waters.
Burling - the New Zealand driver - certainly didn't deny Canada's impressive racing in the Final, although he did have doubts over whether the boundary penalty was correctly applied to Robertson's team.
"We felt like we were battling in that front pack all day," said Burling. "We got a good start on the outside in that last one and controlled the right hand mark.
"It felt like we got back to Canada, but I’m still not quite sure what happened with that boundary penalty. It felt like the umpires were pretty soft on them there, but you’ve got to play to the whistle and they sailed a great race."
Despite failing to win their home event, the Kiwis did manage to claim bragging rights over local rivals Australia - bettering Tom Slingsby's team in the Final to close the gap on the Aussies in the Season Championship.
Continued Burling: "I think 90 per cent of people I’ve talked to have said ‘at least you beat the Aussies’.
"For us it’s great for the overall season leaderboard as well by getting a few more [points] on France and Great Britain. They gained a few on us in Sydney so to have a little more margin going into San Fran is always nice."
Next up for SailGP is the Season 3 Grand Final, taking place May 6-7 in San Francisco. The Kiwis are currently second in the season rankings and looking good for qualification for the three-team winner-takes-all Grand Final - although nothing is guaranteed at this stage.
"We were really happy to make it through this weekend," Burling finished. "It’s great practice every time you get through [to the final]. We’re stoked to take one off the Aussies again but it’ll be a good battle in San Francisco to see who gets through out of those two [France and Great Britain] and hopefully we can put together a nice event and make our life nice and easy.
"It definitely felt like we sailed really well this week in some regards but also struggled in others so it’s about going back and figuring out what we can do better and making a plan for San Fran."