• New Zealand overtakes Australia as overall season leaders
  • Three fleet races and a winner-takes-all final saw a high octane afternoon of racing on Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbour

New Zealand’s ‘Black Foils’ – driven by Peter Burling – have today claimed victory in front of an adoring hometown crowd at the the second-annual ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch.

After the cancellation of racing yesterday, SailGP implemented a ‘Super Sunday’ format of racing, consisting of three fleet races and then a winner-takes-all final podium race.

The first race of the day went the way of hometown favourites, the Black Foils, with New Zealand taking the lead on the start and finishing by overtaking France on the final mark to claim the opening victory on Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbour.

Congratulations, New Zealand!

Critically, season leaders Australia was ruled out for the event following a collision with a course mark just after the start, leaving them with event-ending damage to the green and gold F50. With the team heading into this weekend’s racing in first place on the leaderboard, it was clear that this result would change the dynamic for the entire event.

Driver Tom Slingsby said: “The moment was a blur. As we rounded the mark we had two boats on our inside and we looked like we were going to hit Canada. The decision was so quick but keeping the team safe is the most important thing so we went straight for the mark. It hasn’t really sunk in yet and the results are what they are, I’m just glad that all our people are safe.”

Canada claimed victory in race two – with native Kiwi driver Phil Robertson at the wheel. The race felt from the get go that it really was Canada's race with Robertson in jest telling the crowd of his victory, “I think I just became the favourite Kiwi putting the Aussies out of the running in the first race”

The third and final race to the podium saw Quentin Delapierre’s French take the win, leaving three races with three different winners, France, New Zealand and defending champions Canada to take on in the final.

After a great day of high-octane racing, full of drama the teams set for the winner takes all final, with Burling and the Black Foils heading into the race number one on the event leaderboard.

A strong start from the Kiwis saw Canada having to keep clear of them on the line, with the Black Foils taking the first mark with France in hot pursuit. Canada split the pack after the second mark, a decision that caused them to trail for the remainder of the race with the Black Foils ending up taking a strong early lead and holding that lead for the race.

Leading on the course all the way to the finish, the Black Foils took the finish line in a convincing fashion, crossing to an explosive reaction of the eleven thousand strong home crowd as the Black Foils cemented themselves as the winners of the event, and their place at the top of the season leaderboard.

Burling said: “Today has been the best day in SailGP history and to come out on the right side of it after such a battle to get into the final is something I am just blown away by.” Being able to sail in front of our home crowd is something we have been looking forward too all season and to take out today in front of them has been incredible”

On coming in second place, Robertson said: “We were so close to nailing the start of the final, we had a plan and were so close to exciting it and the Kiwis just did a really good job to get a tiny hook on us. We come away from the weekend one place higher on the leaderboard and are closing on the top three so all in all a great weekend.”

The win for New Zealand and the resulting penalty points awarded to Australia for the damage caused in race 1 – a total of eight season points – sees the Kiwi’s top the overall leaderboard, nine points in front of Australia. However, Australia have requested a points penalty review.

Another team to slide down the overall leaderboard following the weekend’s racing was Nicolai Sehested’s ROCKWOOL Denmark who was docked four season points for an incident at the start of the first race with Canada, causing substantial damage to the bow of the Danish F50. Sehested now resides in fifth overall.

With over 22 thousand fans in attendance over the weekend, the ITM New Zealand Grand Prix was the largest ever ticketed individual sailing event. The league now moves to the tenth stop of the season – the Apex Group Bermuda Sail Grand Prix – May 5-6. For full details visit SailGP.com.