New Zealand, Australia and Spain may be top of the leaderboard heading into San Francisco, but only the Kiwis have guaranteed their place in the $2 million, winner-takes-all Grand Final with a total of 93 points.

Australia sits in second with 78 points and Diego Botin’s Spain is in third with 76 after a vastly improved performance this season.

Season 4 // Spain foils past France in background

But lurking just 5 points behind is Quentin Delapierre’s France, which aims to steals Spain’s Grand Final place when fleet racing begins. Following San Francisco’s five fleet races, the points will be recalculated and only the top three ranked teams will move into the Championship-deciding showdown.

France will have to beat Spain by six event points to take their place. But can they do this? Which team outperformed which in San Francisco’s fleet racing last season, and which has chalked up superior results throughout this season?

Season 4 // France and Spain approach finish line with LiveLine graphics

San Francisco fleet racing in Season 3

When comparing France and Spain’s performances in San Francisco’s fleet races last season, we can see that the French outperformed the Spanish across numerous metrics. France had a higher average speed across the five races - 53.6 km/h compared to Spain’s 51.8 km/h, had a higher flight time percentage (85.2% versus 74.2%), and travelled less distance (4,942m versus 4,9714m).

Canada Sail Grand Prix | Halifax | Season 4 | Fleet | Racing

But Spain outperformed France on the starting line, crossing the line on average 2.4 seconds after the gun (France took 4.2 seconds) and positioned closest to the line - an average of 26.4m versus France’s 66.3m. France did make quicker starts - with an average starting speed of 77.7 km/h against Spain’s 75.7km/h, but ultimately Spain recorded higher Mark 1 positions - 4.8 versus France’s 6.5.

While the French made poorer starts, they made up for them - overtaking nine boats in total from Mark 1 to the finish line throughout fleet racing to record an average finish position of 5.2. Spain meanwhile slipped backwards through the fleet by an average 3.8 places for an average finishing position of 8.5.

Canada Sail Grand Prix | Halifax | Season 4 | Fleet | Practice

Season 4: France vs Spain

France and Spain’s performances throughout Season 4 tell a different story however, with Spain rising to the top of the fleet multiple times in both high and light wind conditions.

The data provided by both teams’ F50s throughout the season shows that Spain travelled less distance than France - an average of 7,582m compared to 7,844m, but France had the highest average speed - 42.1 km/h against Spain’s 40.9 km/h.

Season 4 // France and Spain underway on Sydney Harbour on Race Day 1

France has been quicker to cross the start line after the gun too - an average of 4.2 seconds compared to Spain’s 4.4, and has made quicker starts with a starting speed of 40.8 km/h against Spain’s 36.9 km/h. France outperformed Spain in terms of flight time percentage too - 76.2% against Spain’s 73.7%.

Spain and France recorded similar distances to the start line - 35.9m and 35.8m respectively, as well as similar Mark 1 positions - Spain’s 4.9 to France’s 4.7. But Spain improved its Mark 1 position by an average of 0.4 places compared to France’s average loss of 0.4 places to finish, showing that while the margins are small, Spain may have the edge in moving up through the fleet.

Finals versus event wins

Spain’s performances have certainly been more erratic than France’s when looking at event results, with the team experiencing higher highs and lower lows than France. Spain finished 10th in Dubai, but countered this with event wins in L.A. and Bermuda.

Season 4 // Spain celebrate on board after winning in Bermuda

France might not have won an event, but finished fourth four times this season - missing out on a place in an event Finals on a tie break multiple times.

When it comes to winning when it matters, Spain has definitively beaten France this season, with a 50% win rate in event Finals. Spain qualified for four Finals in Los Angeles, Saint-Tropez, Abu Dhabi and Bermuda, winning in Los Angeles and Bermuda.

Season 4 // ROCKWOOL DEN, France and Emirates GBR go head to head in Halifax Final

France meanwhile qualified for two - Christchurch and Halifax - but won neither, resulting in a 0% event Final win percentage.

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Starts November

Season 4 Grand Final