Ahead of the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix, New Zealand driver Peter Burling explains how the Kiwis battled back from a pre-event four-point penalty to claim a dominating victory in Singapore.
Going into Race Weekend
Coming into racing, we had an event penalty for contact with the U.S. in practice, which meant we started the weekend with -4 points. That definitely puts you on the back foot in a lot of ways, especially knowing it’s going to be quite a short event.
It means you’ve got to perform from the outset and your margin for error becomes significantly lower. It didn’t change the pressure but it certainly motivated us to try harder in the build-up and make sure we’re 100% ready to go from that very first race.
Race Day 1
As a team, we’re relatively confident in all weather conditions, but the light air in Singapore increases the randomness of racing. You make one mistake and it puts you back massively, so we were pleased to get off the start line in good shape and take the win in the first race.
It was a bit trickier in race two - there was a huge right-hand shift and we picked up a penalty just after the start line, but I think the whole group did a great job of getting into some clear air and giving ourselves some options getting out of the bottom mark. We were able to pull some points back onto the leaderboard from there.
Race Day 2
We went into the second day of racing in sixth place overall - but that meant we were closer to making the Final than we were at the start of day one at a deficit. We thought we’d be competing in light airs like the day before, with small margins making a huge difference, but we were right at the top end range for the 29-metre wing configuration.
Despite that, it was one of the better days we’ve had. Being able to get a second and third place finish, and then win the Final in Singapore’s shifty, light conditions was just incredible. In the last fleet race of the day, we got into a solid position and knew it was enough to get into the Final - so we just stayed there to make sure we were in the podium race.
When it comes to the Final, we don’t change our approach depending on who we’re up against - it’s more about subtly changing your approach from a nine-boat fleet to a three-boat fleet. It was great to see Denmark back in the Final again - it seems like we tend to have good events at the same time - and then obviously the Australians have a good track record of performing in three-boat Finals.
My biggest worry was that it was starting to rain and the breeze could just shut down, which it did quite soon after racing. But two minutes out, there was the biggest puff of breeze in the whole event. We wanted to make sure we made a good start, so we decided to go right at the bottom end of the line.
From there, it was about getting to mark one in good shape and then it’s difficult for the boats to pass the team in front unless they make a mistake. Our win record against the Aussies is three from three in the Final now but having said that, we’re not going to sit on our laurels. If you do that you probably end up not performing. It’s nice to have taken them down in all the Finals we’ve had with them so far, which helps consolidate our second place position ahead of the events closer to home.
Amokura being struck by lightning in Singapore was definitely something none of us expected. Once we got it home and the shore team started unpacking the boat, the amount of damage was quite staggering and we are looking ahead to sailing a different boat in Sydney while Amokura returns to Aotearoa for repair. Even though the boats are one-design, they’re all subtly different and there will be some challenges getting used to the little idiosyncrasies between the boats.
But we’ve got an amazing group around us and everyone will be excited for the challenge. There’s going to be a slightly different-looking Kiwi boat in Sydney but our goal remains to get our boat back on the start line of our first home event in Christchurch. Until then, it’s going to be important to really make the most of our practice days and get ready for racing in Sydney.