New Zealand was a light-air standout on day one in Abu Dhabi, finding themselves second on the event leaderboard after the first three fleet races of the weekend. The Kiwis picked up 20 points, just one point shy of Spain who lead the table. USA and Canada are tied for third with 19 points each.
Coach Ray Davies said: “It was a pretty tough day for anyone to be consistent, but we’re really happy to come away right in the hunt.”
In race one, the Kiwis picked up where they left off in Dubai, executing a clean start to win the race to mark one, widening their lead ahead of the fleet to finish cleanly in first ahead of Australia in second and Canada in third.
In race two; however, the same top teams found themselves fighting in the back of the pack. Australia and New Zealand finished ninth and 10th, respectively while Spain bounced back from their own 10th-place finish to pick up their first of back-to-back race wins.
New Zealand driver Peter Burling said: “It was really a day where if you’re not first, you’re last. Looking at the leaderboard, the first two boats overall each had a first and a tenth. It shows just how tricky it is out here.”
Coach Ray Davies said: “We’re pretty happy with day one here in Abu Dhabi and some good gains heading into tomorrow. We’re looking at very similar conditions - not much over seven, eight knots, so once again it will be all about getting off the line well.”
Today’s racing included a new element of two reaching marks at the beginning of the race. The formation puts extra pressure on already-critical starts, with teams trailing at mark one finding themselves hard pressed to move up the fleet.
The change is one Burling said he disagreed with: “I don’t think any of the athletes will tell you we like this double reach configuration. When you get to mark one, that’s you for the race, so it puts a huge amount of pressure on the start.”
Burling continued: “We probably took a bit too much risk in that second race, hanging at the back looking for a gap to open up. Still good to get a couple of strong starts and results on the board and plenty to review heading into day two.”
The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council returns tomorrow, Sunday 14 January at 2pm local time (11pm NZST) - live and on-demand on ThreeNow, with delayed coverage on Three (linear) at 4.30pm Sunday.