New Zealand driver Peter Burling has dissected the nail-biting finish to Season 3’s Grand Final showdown in San Francisco, which saw the Kiwis lose to Australia by a matter of meters.
The Aussies led the race from the off, making a solid start off the line with the Kiwis and gaining the inside track at Mark One. After Emirates GBR fell back into third place, the Kiwis began to make incremental gains. A crucial moment came when Burling’s crew split away from the Aussies at the mark, opting instead to sail the fourth leg inshore.
Speaking after the race, Burling said he ‘prioritized the split’. “The other side had been working well all day, but then the first couple of shifts at the bottom put us a long way behind and we were in catch up mode from there.”
He added: “It was about the first time the right hand side hadn’t worked but everyone dug deep and kept fighting and we got ourselves right back in there at the end.”
Taking advantage of the extra breeze on the inshore track propelled the Kiwis into second place, but the Aussies were still matching maneuver for maneuver. But when the Aussies fell off the foils on the final upwind leg, the Kiwis were handed a golden opportunity. Despite closing Australia’s lead to just 18m, it was Tom Slingsby's crew who narrowly gained the inside track at Mark Five, giving them priority in the sprint to the finish.
“We were gutted not to have got the half a meter or whatever it was at the end and get the overlap,” Burling said after racing, “but you’ve got to hand it to the Aussies, they sailed well all weekend.”
Reflecting on the Grand Final event, which saw the Kiwis pick up a 4-7-3-6-7 fleet racing record, Burling said the team had saved its best performance of the weekend for the three-boat showdown.
“We definitely battled hard all week right in the middle of the pack - we did a good job of consolidating and making sure we got through to the Grand Final and then having our best race of the event.”
He added: “We’re absolutely gutted we couldn’t get the job done, but it gives us motivation looking back at how much we’ve progressed since last year.”
Looking ahead to the start of Season 4, which kicks off with the Rolex United States Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier next month, Burling said the team would ‘take time to review’.
“We’ll see what we need to work on and improve, but we’re headed in the right direction.”