DUBAI - December 10, 2023 - Peter Burling’s New Zealand SailGP Team clinched a stunning come-from-behind victory to win the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas in the most hotly contested final in SailGP history.
In a thrilling, winner-takes-all final race, the lead changed constantly and at the finish there was utter confusion as all three finalists – New Zealand, Canada and Australia – were side by side, meters from both the shoreline and the finish line and no one was clear who had taken the win.
Phil Robertson’s Canada SailGP Team appeared to have the upper hand heading into the final mark as it surged ahead in front of a sold out Dubai crowd. But Robertson was penalized for not providing Australia – driven by Jimmy Spithill who was standing in for regular driver Tom Slingsby – with enough space to get around the final mark, and despite crossing the line first, the victory went to the Kiwis who snuck in at the very last minute.
It was a fitting finish to a drama-filled day on the waters of Mina Rashid. An event win for the adopted home team, Ben Ainslie’s Emirates GBR, in the opening race of the day meant the Brits were well on their way to booking a place in the final. However, disaster struck at the beginning of race five and the Brits had to leave the race course early, ending any hope of victory in Dubai.
In an aggressive move, new USA SailGP Team driver Taylor Canfield – two time world match racing tour champion – held out arguably one of the best athletes in the sport at the start. Canfield closed the gap at the end of the startline on the Brits to shut them out and, while Ainslie made it through, he was quickly disqualified by the umpire for the maneuver, receiving a similar fate to the German’s the day before.
Ainslie said: “It was a difficult way to end for us. We had a really good first race. The team did a great job and that second start we were in pole position and it was really 50-50 with the USA. They were obviously gunning to try and shut us out and eventually the umpires decided that was the case. It was a really tough call for us because I felt we were sailing really well in the second half of yesterday and today we were going really well with the bigger wing. But that’s sport. Sometimes it’s going to go against you and you just have to take it on the chin.”
Another big upset among the fleet was with Quentin Delapierre’s France SailGP Team. Having placed second in two of the races at the weekend, ‘Le Bleus’ were almost certain to line up in the Grand Final. However, they hadn’t counted on Spithill raining on their parade. Racing for his home country Australia for the first time since 2001, Spithill just needed to get past one boat to guarantee the Aussies a place in the final. In the dying minutes of the race and fighting out at the back of the fleet, he managed to pick off the Spanish to secure a place in the final, knocking out the French in the process.
Due to light wind conditions yesterday, SailGP’s CEO Sir Russell Coutts offered teams the choice of the 24 or 29 meter wing for the final race day in Dubai, another first for the league. The 29 meter wing has been out of use across the entire fleet since the wing failure of the New Zealand SailGP Team in Saint-Tropez earlier this season. After an hour of deliberation, the ten national teams collectively decided to race with the larger wing to give the F50s extra power in the forecasted light winds.
New Zealand driver Peter Burling said: “With the collapse of our wing, we feel like we missed two events of the European leg so it’s really hard to get back into the league. I’m proud of the team for getting this wing back up, getting over the incident in Saint-Tropez and carrying on. We made a mistake at the start box and stayed at the back but we managed to get to the inside at the bottom and we’re stoked to walk away with a win.”
For Spithill – who had a turbulent run into the event, having left the United States team, announced his own Italian team and then reappeared as driver for the Aussies – it was a fitting end to his SailGP sailing career.
Spithill said: “Coming into this event, I didn’t want to make too many mistakes for the Aussies, I just wanted to get a solid result and I think that’s what we accomplished. For me, I’m finished now as a SailGP athlete, this being my final event. It’s come full circle because over 20 years ago now I started with Australia, that’s the last time I represented Australia, so to close it out with a team like this is a good feeling. I’ll be heavily involved in the Italy SailGP Team, but it’s time for a new generation and a new young gun to come through.”
With the conclusion of the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas comes the end of the global league’s first of many Race for the Future takeovers, which highlighted SailGP’s ongoing commitment and passion to climate action with COP28 taking place in the iconic city at the same time. The takeover showcased how the league races for Impact, Innovation, Inclusivity and Clean Energy solutions.
Fans don’t have long to wait for their next fix of SailGP. The next stop is in a month’s time when the league remains in the UAE and goes to Abu Dhabi for the seventh event of Season 4. The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council takes place on January 13-14. For details and tickets head to SailGP.com/AbuDhabi.
EMIRATES DUBAI SAIL GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY P&O MARINAS // FINAL STANDINGS //
1 // New Zealand 10 points
2 // Australia 9 points
3 // Canada 8 points
4 // France 7 points
5 // Emirates GBR 6 points
6 // ROCKWOOL Denmark 5 points
7 // Switzerland 4 points
8 // United States 3 points
9 // Germany 2 points
10 // Spain 1 point
SAILGP SEASON 4 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after six events) //
1 // Australia 52 points
2 // ROCKWOOL Denmark 41 points
3 // New Zealand 40 points
4 // Emirates GBR 38 points
5 // United Stated 35 points
6 // Spain 33 points
7 // Canada 32 points
8 // France 31 points
9 // Switzerland 15 points
10 // Germany 10 points
*Spain SailGP Team docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía-Cádiz
*New Zealand SailGP Team unable to compete in Taranto due to the structural failure of the team’s wingsail at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
*Canada SailGP Team Docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
*Germany SailGP Team docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix
ABOUT SAILGP // SailGP is the world’s most exciting racing on water. The global championship features national teams battling in short, intense races at iconic stadium-style venues across the globe. The high-tech, high-speed action features sailing’s best athletes racing in identical hydrofoiling F50 catamarans, flying at speeds approaching 100 km/h. SailGP also races for a better future, championing a world powered by nature. Visit SailGP.com for more information.
CONTACT // Sacha Kemp | Communications Director | firstname.lastname@example.org | UK: +44 7772 577129