Canada driver Phil Robertson debriefs the fast and furious racing action of Christchurch and reveals how the team picked up its first ever event win at the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix.

Going into Race Weekend

Sydney was quite an emotional event for a lot of people and we spent a couple of weeks as a team just trying to sort it all out. Any adversity that a team goes through is an opportunity to grow as a unit and that made it into a positive which united the team. Going into Christchurch, we were a tight little group, keen to put it all behind us and put on a show.

Season 3 // New Zealand Sail Grand Prix // Canada lead Final

The cancelation of practice racing was quite difficult for us - we had a brand new wing and the boat had been through pretty extensive repairs so nothing had been commissioned. Typically, you use your training days to debug the boat and iron out any creases and losing that meant that we were expecting anything to go wrong at any minute. To the credit of SailGP Technologies, the platform was working just fine. Losing practice racing also meant that we didn’t have as much time to get to know the course, but we did our prep and talked amongst the team as much as we could. We knew we were going to be straight into racing. We only had about four minutes of sailing before racing, so we were just reshuffling our priorities the closer we got to the first race. By the end of it, the only priority was being on the start line of race one.


We had our objectives and what we wanted to achieve on the first race day, and it wasn’t results focused at all. We managed to tick all our boxes and get a few good results, including a first and a third, which set us up for the second day to have a crack at that Final.

All in all, it was a pretty good day for the team on the water. In the last two fleet races on Sunday, any point is huge. We came off the start line of the fourth fleet race with a little error, which meant we were last at Mark 1. We fought really hard that race and planned to attack at the very last turning mark. We set up our whole race for that and managed to pass two boats in the last minutes of the race in the line to the finish. That was the thing we were most proud of as a team - how we rallied and clawed back three points from being last at Mark 1.

New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch | Season 3 | Emirates GBR | Canada | Racing

That was huge and gave us the opportunity to fight for the Final. In the last fleet race, we had to beat two out of three boats. They were both behind us at Mark 1 and we kept them there. We had Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team biting at our heels and it was a sign of the team's resilience that we managed to keep them behind us.

The Final

The Final was about trying to execute the start and be ahead at the first bottom gate and we achieved that. A key moment of the race was when we jibed out of Mark 1. We were ahead and the Aussies jibed inside us and I think if we had sailed straight, they would have either overlapped inside us at the bottom gate or been right on our heels.

Season 3 // New Zealand Sail Grand Prix // Canada with New Zealand on finish line

We had the opportunity to give them a couple of big luffs and pushed them outside away from the mark. By doing that, [Australia driver] Tom Slingsby decided to go high and split to the other gate and that gave us the lead at the bottom gate.

The Final is an interesting one - you don’t have all the other boats and traffic so you have to put the boat on the edge. If you don’t, you’re not going to win the Final. That was our attitude going into it - put it right on the edge and don’t hold back. We had a comfortable lead halfway through the race and fluffed a jibe, but we bounced back straight away and got back to top speed again really quickly.

The boundary penalty was another little error. We knew we had to be as close as possible to the boundary, but it takes about six seconds to turn the boat once you decide to jibe. We probably got it half a second out, so took that punishment. But I guess pushing that boundary set us up to lay through to the bottom mark, which was a big gain.

Winning in Christchurch was huge for the team. It’s our first season and I don’t think anyone expected us to win an event and to be able to do that in this fleet is no mean feat. It was the comeback of comebacks after the destruction of Sydney and going from that state to winning the next event just four weeks later.

For me personally, it was huge to win in New Zealand, leading the Canadian team in front of my family and best mates. The spectators in Christchurch were also just on a different level in terms of enthusiasm and appreciation. Everyone was talking about it and saying it was the biggest sporting event they’d been to. That’s a vote of confidence in terms of what we’re trying to do with the league and the sport. Canada also had an amazing Adopt-a-Club in the Waimakariri Sailing Club, which got 85 people out to do a big clean up of the river and beach around the club earlier in the week. They filled a nine cubic meter bin full of trash and also planted 755 trees in inspiration of the Impact League. The enthusiasm of the club was pretty cool to see.

Season 3 // New Zealand Sail Grand Prix // Phil Robertson with spectators in Christchurch

Look ahead to San Francisco

It’s going to be business as usual for us in San Fran. It doesn’t matter if we’ve won or lost an event, our attitude is the same. We’re not really in a position to get into the Final, so we’re very much looking ahead to Season 4. We’re going to use the opportunity as a building exercise for the next season - not many teams have that opportunity, so that definitely plays in our favor.