A change in seasons has had little effect on SailGP’s favourite rivalry, with only one point and position separating New Zealand and Australia after day one of the Rolex United States Sail Grand Prix in Chicago. Australia is in pole position with 26 points, while New Zealand sits second on the day one leaderboard with 25.
New Zealand driver Peter Burling said he was thrilled to put together three solid races, with the Kiwis finishing fourth, second and second in the first fleet races of the weekend. Canada heads into day one in third with 24 points while the Rockwool Denmark SailGP Team is three points behind in fourth (21).
“It was an awesome day out there - really pleasing for us as a team,” said Burling. “We sailed the boat consistently on a challenging course, tried out a few different things in the starts and think we saw that pay off in the results.”
The day got off to a flying start for three-time SailGP champions Australia who led the now ten-deep fleet across the racetrack, finishing first ahead of Emirates Great Britain in second and Canada in third. In race two, an unforced error saw Australia miss the start, while New Zealand surged to the front of the fleet. A penalty for not giving room to France at the bottom gate of the first downwind leg looked like it might prove costly, but New Zealand fought back, finishing second ahead of France in third.
In the third and final fleet race of the day, the trans-Tasman rivalry was on full display with Australia and New Zealand pulling ahead of the fleet to finish first and second (respectively) ahead of Denmark in third and Spain in fourth.
Flight controller Andy Maloney said, “We never like being second behind the Aussies but overall a really awesome first day here in Chicago.”
Maloney said tomorrow would pose different conditions and new challenges for crews to adapt to: “Today we were sailing in a nice 12-15 knots with pretty flat water around Navy Pier - it doesn’t get much better than that for these boats. Tomorrow is looking really light, so we’ll most likely be sailing ‘four up’ with the 29-metre wing. We haven’t sailed in that configuration since Singapore, so a lot to prepare for and focus on overnight.”
The Rolex United States Sail Grand Prix returns tomorrow (Sunday NZST) live on ThreeNow from 9am. There will be delayed coverage on Three (linear) at 4.30pm.