__It was a fast and furious opening day of racing for the SailGP fleet today, set against the stunning backdrop of Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour. Gusty conditions challenged the nine national teams and plenty of close boat-on-boat action and near misses excited the sell-out crowd. __

After a 40-minute delay, due to dolphin sightings on the racecourse, three fleet races got underway and the Swiss battled hard to deliver a consistent 6-7-6 racing record.

It was a baptism of fire for new wing trimmer, Glenn Ashby, who only had around 10 minutes of practice onboard F50 Eiger ahead of racing.

Ashby said: ‘It was fantastic to finally get on the water and sail with Seba and the team on the F50. It was the first time onboard for me, and it’s been quite a few years since sailing with a wing, but it was a really fun day out there!

Season 3 // New Zealand Sail Grand Prix // Switzerland center of fleet

“There’s for sure a lot for me to learn but the team did a great job of carrying me around the course. We had some great conditions, nice little puffs and shifts, and certainly some fantastic racing. There are some really good takeaways from the day too, that we can work on for tomorrow.”

Swiss driver Sébastien Schneiter said: “After a month off the boat, we were really looking forward to getting back out there today! It was a really cool day on the water and it’s a super nice racecourse. The racing was pretty intense, and at times we could feel we were a bit out of practice, but there were a lot of good things from today and a great team spirit onboard.

Season 3 // New Zealand Sail Grand Prix // F50 fleet stretch away on day one

“Considering we only had around 10 minutes of sailing together before the first race I think the team did really well and we were feeling more comfortable with every race.

"I think there are a lot of positives from our performance and we will look at the data together tonight to see how we can turn the strong positions we had today into solid race results tomorrow."

The ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix continues tomorrow (Sunday 19 March) at 15:00 NZDL, 03:00 CET. How To watch all the action HERE.