Sail smooth, sail fast and stay clear of the Spanish!” was the mandate going into the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix for Phil Robertson and the Canada SailGP Team.

Having a few extra sailing days in Dubai as part of the testing programme for the league’s new T-foils proved fortuitous for the team, as did having new wing trimmer Paul ‘CJ’ Campbell-James onboard along with coach Philippe Presti.

Season 4 // Close up of Canada F50 while racing in Dubai

Phil and the crew were hot out of the blocks when racing got underway on Saturday afternoon on the Arabian Gulf. A near perfect start translated into a clear win in the first race for the Canadians. In Race 2, the team was lined up for another great start but was a mere 0.001 second early over the line! This meant the team had to drop to the back of the pack, but the Canadians beavered their way through the fleet to claim a solid third place, while it was the Australians who took the win with Jimmy Spithill on the helm exclusively for this event.

Then a tussle with the new American team at the start of Race 3 really set the team back and meant an 8th place finish in the dying breeze. The Canadians rounded out day one tied for second place with New Zealand.

Following on from Saturday's racing, all of drivers and wing trimmers gathered in the Canada SailGP Team base for a briefing from SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts. Given the light air forecast, Russell gave the teams the option to choose the 24M or 29M wings for racing today and a tight deadline to decide.

Racing with the largest wings (29M) proved to be the right call, with less than eight knots of breeze today. In Race 4, the Canadians were over early at the start and the five crew onboard struggled to work their way through the fleet to finish seventh. Then in the final fleet race of the day, Phil executed a perfect start and the team went on to claim the win! A black flag for Emirates GBR cleared the way for the Canadians to make the grand final to line up against New Zealand and Australia.

The finals were light and tricky with several lead changes. It all came down to the final mark where a complex situation led to a penalty for Canada in what would be the closest finish in the history of SailGP and New Zealand claiming the win.

"We were really happy to be in the final, we were fighting with the best in the fleet. We are really looking forward to Abu Dhabi," said Strategist Annie Haeger.

The Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix coincided with COP28 where Canada was well represented with a delegation that included Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, as well as representatives from Dalhousie's Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) who took the time out to visit the team.

From here the fleet heads to the Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix on 14-15 January 2024.