A trans-Tasman showdown is poised for Sydney Harbour this weekend, with familiar rivals Australia and New Zealand in first and second respectively, separated by just six points.

Commenting on the competition, Australian driver Tom Slingsby said he feared the Kiwis would be “full of confidence,” having won the last two events in the UAE. “For sure, they’re the in-form team,” said Slingsby, who is in the hunt for his first event win this season.

Sydney Opera House

Adding to the drama, New Zealand has substitute driver Nathan Outteridge at the helm, stepping in for Peter Burling who is home for the birth of his first child.

This weekend though, he wears New Zealand black - and speaks with distinctive Kiwi humility: “Observing the New Zealand team, they really want to win this season. They were incredibly close to stealing the win last year in San Francisco. I hope I can do my part to keep the charge going.”

“Pete and Blair are some of the best sailors in the world and they’re working really hard to make sure they’re a firm challenge. You can sense that, just being in the squad this week. They mean business, they’re here to win,” said Outteridge.

Outteridge was full-time driver for Japan in SailGP Seasons 1 and 2 and maintains an advisory role for the Swiss, often competing as co-driver alongside Sebastian Sehested in Season 3. He also competes with many in the Kiwi crew as part of their America’s Cup defence with Emirates Team New Zealand.

This weekend however, he won’t have a chance to train on New Zealand’s F50 Amokura before the action begins - with official practice racing called off due to thunderstorms on the forecast. Only the “new” teams were granted limited training time this morning to familiarise themselves with the course, including Germany - new to the league in Season 4 - and the USA, who went through an almost entire crew shake up after a landmark sale in November last year.

Asked if he felt the decision for two teams to train was unfair, Outteridge said: “Some of us have a decade of experience so you have a bit of a leg up. The new guys don’t have that opportunity, their options are really to come here and utilise the training sessions and pick bits out of the data. It’s hard for them to catch up. This is their opportunity to show what they're made of.”

The KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney begins tomorrow, Saturday 24 February 2024, with live racing on ThreeNow at 6pm NZT.