The Kiwis currently have an edge over three-time champions Australia after winning back-to-back events in tricky light air venues, SailGP’s commentators have said.
Both Stevie Morrison and Emily Nagel pointed to the Kiwis’ ability to perform in high and light wind conditions, with New Zealand winning both light wind UAE events, as well as Season 4’s opener in Chicago.
The Kiwi crew, led by Peter Burling, managed to execute solid starts and consistently sail the shortest distance to beat the fleet.
Reflecting on fleet racing, Nagel said: "The Kiwis were really clever deciding that they weren’t going to try and foil in the fleet races and just committed to H2 (both hulls in the water) mode - that meant they sailed the shortest distance and got the points.”
The Australians meanwhile had their worst event of Season 4 so far, with Abu Dhabi marking the first time in seven events where the Aussies haven’t made the Final.
Reflecting on both teams’ performances this season, Morrison said: “I think the Kiwis are more of an all-round package than the Australians right now - I don’t see a huge weakness in the New Zealand team, whereas I do see a weakness in the Australian team.”
However, he conceded that the Season 4’s $2M Grand Final in San Francisco ‘will be decided probably in a windy race - and I still think the Australians are the best when there’s a bit of breeze.”
The failure to win an event yet this season - despite making the three-boat showdown six times, will ‘fire the Aussies up’ as they head to their home event next month when the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix takes place on February 24-25.
“I think as we go to these windier events, we’re going to see the Australians come back,” Morrison said.
Looking ahead to the end of the season, Morrison said he was confident New Zealand and Australia would both make the San Francisco Grand Final.
“Season points wise, I would almost already out them in the Final,” he said. “We’ve seen that anything can happen, you can have a big accident or a crash that can really affect your season - so clearly no-one is in the Final but we’re going to home venues for those teams next and I would be willing to put them in the Final.”
Any of the teams sitting from 3rd to 7th place on the overall season leaderboard however ‘can turn it around’, Morrison said.
The F50 fleet will next meet for battle at the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney on February 24-25.