New Zealand driver Peter Burling has said he’s excited ‘to continue building momentum’ after winning SailGP’s debut event in Abu Dhabi and closing the points gap to Season 4 leaders Australia.

New Zealand beat Spain and the United States in a light wind spectacle as SailGP arrived in the UAE capital for the first time. The refreshed season standings see the Kiwis remain in second place but close the points gap to season leaders Australia at the top of the leaderboard. There are now just 6 points separating the fierce rivals, after Australia missed the Final for the first time in Season 4. An OCS penalty in the last fleet race proved devastating for Tom Slingsby’s crew, which finished the event in 7th overall.

Season 4 // Liv Mackay and Peter Burling in Abu Dhabi Mixed Zone

“We’ve had an awesome time up here in the UAE, it’s been really great for our team to get a couple of wins on the board and really close up that gap to the Australians in front,” Burling said. Looking ahead to SailGP’s next event in Sydney, he added: “We’re just excited to continue building momentum through the season.”

It comes after a ‘challenging’ first half of Season 4 for New Zealand after suffering a catastrophic wing failure in Saint-Tropez. The consequent equipment damage forced the Kiwis to miss the second day of racing in France and sit out the entire Taranto event - though they were awarded an average score as recompense.

Season 4 // New Zealand with F50 at Abu Dhabi Adrenaline Lounge

“Getting this one on the board in challenging conditions is awesome for the team. I feel like we’ve been the ones so many times who have just missed the Final so to finally scrape through to one and claim the win is absolutely awesome.”

The F50 fleet will next meet for battle at the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney on February 24-25.