New Zealand are tied for second on the event leaderboard after day one of the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix. With substitute driver Jimmy Spithill at the helm, Australia lead the fleet with 26 points; New Zealand and Canada will enter day two with 21 points each.

New Zealand had a slow start on the Persian Gulf. Having earned hard-fought positions in race one, a critical error with the Swiss at the bottom mark saw the Kiwis drop to a sixth-place finish. Canada had a standout performance, winning the sprint to mark one to lead the fleet from start to finish.

Season 4 // Dubai shoreline cheering on New Zealand on day one

The Kiwis bounced back in race two, executing a clean start to pull ahead of the fleet, then trailed Australia in second for the remainder of the race. In the third and final fleet race of the day, New Zealand found themselves fighting in the middle of the pack in dropping winds, eventually finishing fourth after picking off crucial spots.

New Zealand driver Peter Burling, “It was an up and down day. We had a few too many mistakes but some good decisions too and overall happy to end the day second on the leaderboard.”

Season 4 // Close up of New Zealand crew on first day of racing in Dubai

“We found ourselves at the back a couple of times but managed to get ourselves back in the race. We were trying to take the day and be in control of our own destiny rather than a passive approach. You saw that bring us forward a few times, but set us back a few others.”

Competing in patchy winds between 15 and 17 kmh, today’s racing saw crews drop from six to just four, with Kiwi strategist Liv Mackay stepping into the role of grinder in the ‘four up’ configuration.

Mackay said: “The super light conditions were quite unexpected and made for a pretty hectic course with 10 boats out there. It definitely made things pretty interesting but we had great comms from the guys in the booth that helped us get back in the race a few times.”

Sitting in first with a five-point lead, Jimmy Spithill’s performance with the Aussies was the story of the day. The former USA driver paid credit to his interim crew, commenting: “The ability to pull off manoeuvres consistently will pay dividends [on this racetrack]. It’s a real privilege and honour to get to come in here. As an athlete you have few opportunities to come into a team like this.”

The Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix returns tomorrow and Burling said: “We’re heading into tomorrow in a good position - we need to put together a good day and we’ll be through to the final.”

Fans can catch all the action live on Three and ThreeNow, beginning at 2300 NZT (1400 GST). Replays of today’s racing will be available on Three at 1630 NZT Sunday and Monday, or on-demand in the ThreeNow app.