SailGP returned to the iconic waters of San Francisco Bay for the closing installment of its bumper 11-event third season and the league’s fast and furious, close to shore racing did not disappoint.
While two-time, defending champions Australia had already qualified for the three-boat, winner-takes-all shootout and the Kiwis looked comfortable in second place, there was just one point separating Quentin Delapierre’s France in third and Ben Ainslie’s Emirates GBR in fourth.
This set the stage for a dramatic showdown between the two teams when racing got underway, with Emirates GBR playing havoc with France’s game plan.
Ainslie’s crew intentionally blocked the French in the pre-starts of the first three fleet races before executing a near-flawless performance and finishing the first day with second second place finishes and a race win.
France was unable to respond to the pressure, floundering towards the back of the pack and finishing the day with a 6-8-6 racing record.
Emirates GBR followed these chaos tactics up with another consistent performance on the second day of racing, seizing the third and final spot in the Grand Final from the French.
Despite a lackluster performance, the Kiwis finished fleet racing in sixth overall, tied on points with France, and proceeded into the Grand Final shootout against the Brits and Aussies.
Having won the San Francisco event with three race wins under their belts, the Aussies entered the long-awaited Grand Final full of confidence and momentum.
When the starting gun sounded, they seized the advantage early on - pushing Emirates GBR out of the start and claiming the inside track to Mark One.
While the Aussies dominated for most the race, an error on the penultimate leg of the race saw the green and gold F50 fall off the foils and open the door to the advancing Kiwis.
A dramatic sprint to the finish line ensued, but the Aussies were just able to hold off the Kiwis from stealing the win and crossed the line to claim the SailGP three-peat in front of packed, shoreside crowds.
The F50 fleet will next meet for the opening sail grand prix of Season 4 in Chicago in June.