SailGP boss Russell Coutts has given his rundown of the Dubai Final, arguing that Australia’s ability to ‘change up the driver and almost win the event shows how good they really are’.
Former U.S. driver Jimmy Spithill stepped in for permanent driver Tom Slingsby, who was out on paternity leave. Despite a poor 8th place finish in practice racing, Spithill guided the Aussie team to a second place finish overall in Dubai, maintaining their place at the top of the overall Championship leaderboard.
This performance, Coutts said, without their permanent driver proves they are ‘the team to beat’.
Speaking on The Debrief, Coutts complimented the performance of Peter Burling’s New Zealand, which won the event by a whisker - pipped the Aussies to the post. But Coutts pointed to the Canadian’s 11th hour penalty, which denied them the overall win, despite Canada crossing the finish line first.
“I think Phil Robertson opened the door for them (New Zealand),” he said. “If Phil hadn’t had been so focused on the Australians I think he probably would have won that race and the event.”
However, Canada’s on water performance was also impressive, Coutts said, especially since the team was racing with new wing trimmer Paul Campbell-James for the first time.
“So far the chemistry looks good and they look good - they’ll be very, very pleased with that. Changing out your wing trimmer is another dramatic change and to come in and almost win the event you’ve got to say that’s impressive.”
Next up, SailGP heads to Abu Dhabi for the opening event of 2024 on January 13/14.