The Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team finish 4th in the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix after a sold-out weekend of racing on the shores of Lyttelton Harbour. It puts Emirates GBR still well in the hunt for that million-dollar San Francisco Grand Finale in May as they sit one just point behind France.
The forecast was favourable with strong winds and blue skies making for a fantastic day of racing with more high-speed action for day two. On each day of the event, F50s were led out by traditional waka tangata, powered by Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke Rapaki kaihoe (paddlers). The hapū played a key role in welcoming SailGP manuhiri (visitors) to Lyttelton, including staging a pōwhiri for visiting teams, staff, friends and whānau earlier in the week, and blessing the site and all nine F50s ahead of race weekend.
Emirates GBR had a good start to race four at the front of the fleet but narrowly missed clinching 3rd place from the French just seconds from the finishing line. In a neck and neck battle for 2nd place, France pushed hard against the Kiwi’s but flew the boat too high and fell off the foils, allowing NZL (2nd) to fly past them on the finish line. The same fate was narrowly avoided with Emirates GBR who were close on their heels.
A poor start in race five made it difficult to battle back from and Emirates GBR finished in a disappointing 6th place knocking them out of the final here in Christchurch. The ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix final saw New Zealand, Australia, and Canada foil it out for the win with New Zealand native, Phil Robertson, sailing a brilliant race for the Canadian team taking 1st place away from the Kiwis.
Reacting to the day’s racing, Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team CEO Ben Ainslie said: “It’s so tight going into the final, narrowing down one point that we did this weekend was so important ahead of San Francisco. There’s still so much to play for ahead of the final in May – we haven’t won an event yet this season, so if there’s a time to do it, it’s the final.
“It’s great to see Canada come away with a win today, they thoroughly deserved that. They had a great start off the line in the final and that’s key in SailGP and they went on to sail a brilliant race.
First time in Christchurch and it’s been an incredible with beautiful sailing conditions. It was wonderful to see so many spectators come out and being so knowledgeable as well – it’s clear New Zealanders love their sport and their sailing.”
Emirates GBR, move to 4th in the overall SailGP Championship table just one point behind the French. The team will return to action for the final time this season at the San Francisco Grand Finale in May with sights firmly set to make it into that winner takes all final.