DUBAI - December 9, 2023 - Australia are once again in the perfect position to finally claim its first win of Season 4 after a stand-out opening day under new driver Jimmy Spithill at the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas. Racing at Mina Rashid, Australia were one of three separate race winners, alongside Canada and home team Emirates Great Britain but were also the most consistent to take a healthy overall lead.
Phil Robertson’s Canada – with new wing trimmer Paul Campbell-James – produced a dominant display to win the first race, in which Australia were third. Spithill, temporarily driving for Tom Slingsby in Dubai, then showed his former USA team what it is missing with a convincing victory in race two. Sir Ben Ainslie’s Emirates Great Britain made the most of a huge mistake from France to win the third race and boost its top-three chances. However, the day belonged to Australia as another third gave it a five-point advantage at the top of the leaderboard from Peter Burling’s New Zealand and Canada tied on points but second and third respectively.
Spithill said: “It felt great. You can definitely see this is a benchmark team in the league. They are a very slick team. I am just trying to get in there and not make too many mistakes. It is a great group and a great atmosphere. I didn’t expect to be leading after how things went in practice. I had an absolute shocker and spent a fair bit of time last night going through and getting myself back up to speed again. I felt like we took some good steps today. Tomorrow will be a different day.”
If the tension was building after the first race, there was high drama from the very start of the second. Erik Heil’s Germany and Canada were both penalized for early starts. For Germany, it was a disaster as it received a black flag and instant disqualification. Germany had attempted to barge in at the start after being shut out by Sébastien Schneiter’s Switzerland. Australia led from start to finish in the second race with New Zealand placing second and Canada, who had been eighth at one stage, finishing third.
Robertson said: “We are sailing the boat really smoothly and nicely through the water. Race one was a win and I am happy to take those and hopefully we will get a few more tomorrow. It is a tricky little racetrack. There are some holes, some big shifts as well, but you have got to keep your nose clean and stay out of traffic. We managed to do a good job of that. It is a nice spot to sail.”
There was even more drama at the start of the third race after France looked like being the first team to the first mark. However it was punished for pushing too hard and took a huge plunge into the water prompting Botín’s Spain into evasive action to avoid a crash.
Emirates Great Britain, who were fifth and seventh in the first two outings, finally got to grips with the light winds to claim a popular victory at its home event in a shortened race. Spain produced a great performance to claim second with Australia consistent yet again in third.
Ainslie said: “It was a tricky day. The results were up and down. You’ve got to get out of mark one in decent shape, which we struggled to do in the first two races. We managed it in the last one and got a win ‒ that saved our day. We need two good races now to get into the podium race, which is always the case on Super Sunday. It is going to be about teamwork in light airs and keeping the boat moving.”
It may have not recorded a win but a sixth, second and fourth ranks New Zealand second in the leaderboard with 21 points. Canada are third also on 21 points. Victory for Emirates Great Britain in the third race means it is just one point further behind in fourth. France, despite its mistakes, are remarkably also on 20 points in fifth.
Meanwhile USA, who won the Spain Sail Grand Prix with Spithill as driver, showed moments of promise in the first event under new ownership and new driver Taylor Canfield. The experience of the rest of the fleet showed though as it placed eighth, ninth and ninth.
The final day of the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas continues at 2:00 p.m. local time, December 10, and can be seen on Dubai Sports. For details on how to watch around the globe visit SailGP.com/watch. For fans in Dubai, limited tickets are still available to have a seat right in the heart of the action. Head to SailGP.com/Dubai for more information.
EMIRATES DUBAI SAIL GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY P&O MARINAS //
Day Two Racing: Sunday, December 10, 2:00 p.m - 3:30 p.m. GST
EMIRATES DUBAI SAIL GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY P&O MARINAS DAY ONE STANDINGS //
1 // Australia 26 points
2 // New Zealand 21 points
3 // Canada 21 points
4 // Emirates GBR 20 points
5 // France 20 points
6 // Switzerland 14 points
7 // ROCKWOOL Denmark 14 points
8 // Spain 13 points
9 // Germany 8 points
10 // United States 7 points
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