The New Zealand SailGP Team sits third on the event leaderboard after the first day of the Mubadala SailGP Season 3 Grand Final, picking up 19 points after a fourth, seventh and third-place finish in the day’s three fleet races. Australia is first heading into day two, tied on points with Emirates Great Britain (28 each).
Gusty conditions saw the Kiwis spend much of the afternoon battling the pack on a course that proved challenging to make gains. “We definitely found today a bit tricky,” said driver Peter Burling, “But as a team, I think we did a great job in the battle fighting our way back and improving throughout the day.”
Two-time SailGP champions Australia dominated in race one, finishing with a strong lead ahead of Emirates Great Britain in second. Climbing from the back of the fleet, New Zealand finished fourth behind Switzerland in third.
In race two, Ben Ainslie’s British crew delivered a standout performance, leading from start to finish and putting vital points between themselves and France, who finished a disappointing second-to-last. New Zealand struggled to break away from the pack, finishing seventh after a penalty against the Swiss.
In race three, Australia led the pack once more, taking the win ahead of Emirates Great Britain while the Kiwis fought through the fleet to finish third, pulling ahead of Canada and Denmark on the final reach of the course.
Much of the day’s drama centred around the hotly-contested “battle for third” between Great Britain and France, with Sir Ben Ainslie’s British crew applying consistent pressure in hopes of blocking the French from tomorrow’s grand final.
“The team did a great job,” said Ainslie. “We got into a bit of a street fight and wanted to put a bit of pressure on France - we’ve seen that if they get a good start and get away, they can sail the boat really well and win races easily. It felt like the right thing to put pressure on them and it worked out.”
And while the day’s results may not have been what the Kiwis hoped for, coach Ray Davies said he was pleased with the team’s performance on the whole. “It was a rough day for us out there - we struggled to get off the startline but after that, we had some good comebacks and overall, happy to come away with a third and be moving in the right direction,” Davies said.
With the season decider now less than 24 hours away, Burling said, “We’re definitely excited to get into it and come back stronger tomorrow. There’s plenty to go back and review tonight, giving us a good opportunity to learn and hopefully, get ready for the final.”
Day two of the Mubadala SailGP Season 3 Grand Final begins tomorrow at 0930 AM Monday 8 May NZST, live on Sky Sport NZ. Racing will also be streamed via YouTube and the SailGP app.