The ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix is off to a flying start for the home team, with New Zealand sitting first on the event leaderboard after a stunning day of fleet racing on Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour.
The Kiwis finished second in race one behind a red-hot French team, fresh off an event win in Sydney. In race two, the Kiwis flew out of the startbox to win the race to mark one, setting up for a drag race with Australia who fell off the foils in a forced error, allowing New Zealand to pull ahead and gain a comfortable lead ahead of the rest of the fleet.
New Zealand rounded out the day with a standout performance in race three, fighting back from a penalty in the start to claim a second-place finish behind Canada, who is second on the event leaderboard heading into day two, ahead of Emirates GBR in third and France in fourth.
Reflecting on the team’s first time racing at home, Burling said: “We’re really happy with how we sailed today. We haven’t had much build up to this event but we made some good decisions around the race track, the manouvres felt nice and crisp and I think we’ve set ourselves up in really good stead for tomorrow.
Around 15,000 are expected across the sold-out event this weekend and Burling said the home support “meant the world” to the Kiwi crew: “To see everyone on the grandstand having a great time and enjoying a good day’s yachting means the world to us as a team.”
Heading into day two, Burling said, “There’s plenty to review tonight but overall we’re really happy with how today went. Tomorrow is looking pretty similar, only slightly lighter than today, so hopefully it’s a case of ‘rinse and repeat’ - tidy up a few bits and get right back into it again.”
With dolphins spotted near the course before the start of race one, organisers implemented racetime protocols - delaying racing by 30 minutes to allow the mammals to safely clear the course.
Burling said: “We’re very much the visitors here coming to play in the dolphins’ backyard - waiting is all part of it. We shut down our training for a little bit as the dolphins made their way east and off the race track. It was pretty special to share the harbour with them for a while, and equally for them to make their way safely off the course and for us to get racing.”