The New Zealand SailGP Team has hit the water in Sydney, donning what have been dubbed the team’s ‘away’ colours as they prepare to race on the fleet’s spare F50 during this weekend’s event.
New Zealand enters the weekend second on the Season 3 leaderboard, just nine points behind title defenders Australia. Asked in this morning’s pre-event media conference if he had hopes of “spoiling Tom [Slingsby]’s party at home,” New Zealand Driver Peter Burling said his team was relishing the opportunity, but had other crews in their sights too.
“We always love racing the Australians and it’s an amazing competition. We definitely enjoy the rivalry we have going, but with the league at this level, it’s really anyone’s event. Across the fleet, everyone is sailing at an incredible level,” Burling said.
Slingsby, however, was less ambiguous about his views on the brewing trans-Tasman rivalry.
“We’re looking forward to racing [New Zealand] on home waters. If they beat us here then head to their home event, they’ll be full of confidence going into San Francisco. This is our opportunity to halt that confidence a bit,” Slingsby said.
During this weekend’s event, the New Zealand SailGP Team will wear black armbands as a mark of respect for the victims of Cyclone Gabrielle. Burling said the events unfolding at home had the team feeling even more proud to represent Aotearoa on the world stage.
“It’s a really surreal weekend for us with everything going on back home. New Zealand has had some massive weather events in the last three weeks … and we’re sending our love to everyone who has been affected by the storms,” Burling said.
“Some of the stories we’re hearing, especially from people in the East Cape and Hawke’s Bay, make us feel incredibly proud to be New Zealanders. Communities have been getting behind each other and going massively out of their way to help one another.”
With ‘Amokura’ now in New Zealand and repairs set to begin at pace after the Sydney event, the Kiwis have spent the last two days familiarising themselves with their borrowed F50 as they gear up for raceday one on Sydney Harbour.
“Yesterday was the first time we sailed the new boat. It was a pretty dynamic day, quite puffy with plenty of waves, so it was difficult to get a real feel for things but we can tell the boat is similar enough. We’re hugely appreciative to the tech team for getting us out there and having the boat in one piece, looking the way it does,” Burling said.
Live racing begins tomorrow, Saturday 18 February, live on Sky Sport NZ at 6PM and for the first time ever, free-to-air on Three and ThreeNow, with delayed coverage Sunday at 4.30PM.