The New Zealand SailGP Team will be buoyed by confidence heading into the weekend, picking up two second-place finishes and a first in today’s official practice racing. The Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix begins tomorrow, Saturday 9 December.

Flight controller Andy Maloney said: “We’re really happy with how we sailed the boat today in the light winds. We managed to sail fast even without much breeze, connect the dots and keep a good flow on everything. All in all, we can take a lot of confidence from today.”

Dubai Sail Grand Prix | Season 3 | New Zealand | Racing

“We’re using a slightly different configuration for this regatta, with Josh [Junior] trialing a more strategic onshore role in the booth alongside Ray [Davies] and Marcus [Hansen] stepping into Josh’ usual position in G2, which is a hybrid grinding and jib trimming role” Maloney said.

In an incredibly tight season leaderboard, New Zealand enters the weekend sixth overall but just two points from third. After being forced to sit out critical race days in the European series, driver Peter Burling said the team was primed for a comeback.

“We’ve had a pretty interesting season to date,” said Burling. “We started off really well then missed an event and a half. We feel like we’re back into normal operation but it’s almost like we’re at a restart in the middle of the season. There's more pressure than ever to consolidate our place at the top. It’s an exciting push and we’re ready for the challenge.”

New Zealand has been testing and training in Dubai since Tuesday, making the most of a longer lead in Emirate waters. Yesterday (Thursday) Kiwi strategists Liv Mackay and Jo Aleh made SailGP history - participating in the league’s first-ever all women’s F50 training session.

Mackay said: “It was awesome - a huge step forward. Everyone was really stoked with it, but also took it on. I feel like it's just the start of the real progression that's been needed."

All eyes were also on Aleh as she represented New Zealand on two panels during the United Nations Climate Conference, COP28 this week. Speaking alongside a panel of star athletes, Aleh shared a personal message of the need for urgent action to protect and restore our ocean.

Aleh said: “I grew up in Aotearoa, New Zealand, so I'm used to living on a small island surrounded by a lot of water. As a sailor, you see through your own eyes how things are changing. Weather patterns, biodiversity, and the creatures that I see or that I used to see that you don't see anymore. It's an area that hits pretty close to home because I'm there every day. It's what I love."

Fans can watch both days of the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix, beginning tomorrow at 2300 NZT (1400 GST). Catch live racing on ThreeNow, with delayed coverage on Three at 1630.

Starts November

Season 4 Grand Final