SailGP’s chief umpire Craig Mitchell has unpacked all the penalty drama from Christchurch, which saw three teams lose season points after receiving devastating penalties.

Emirates GBR and ROCKWOOL DEN were both docked 8 event points and 4 season points for causing collisions, while Australia lost a devastating 12 event points and 8 season points for causing serious damage to their F50.

The first incident occurred in practice racing, when Emirates GBR collided with Spain in a port-starboard incident. The crash damaged both teams’ F50s. “Emirates GBR didn’t see Spain approaching on starboard and by the time they did, it was too late to avoid,” explained Mitchell, adding that ‘the fault lay 100%’ with the Brits.

Season 4 // Close up of Spain and Emirates GBR crash in Christchurch practice racing

The penalty knocked Giles Scott’s team from 6th to 8th place on the Championship leaderboard, taking them a full 10 points from the top three spot that gives you a place in San Francisco’s Grand Final.

Several dramatic incidents unfolded on the start line of the first fleet race. First off, ROCKWOOL DEN appeared to lose track of Canada 30 seconds before the start, resulting in a shocking collision between the two boats.

Season 4 // Damage to ROCKWOOL DEN bow after Canada collision in Christchurch

“ROCKWOOL DEN T-boned Canada and broke off part of the bow of their own boat,” Mitchell said.

The congested start line meant Canada had no way of avoiding the collision with DEN and ricocheted off to hit the United States. Both Canada and the United States were excused of fault, while the Danish lost 8 event points and 4 season points. Despite the massive damage inflicted to the Danish F50, the team continued to race for the rest of the day, finishing the event in 9th place ahead of Australia.

“It was an extremely difficult boat to sail after we destroyed it, full of water and the balance of the whole boat was wrong, but we also knew that one point beating Australia might matter in San Francisco, so that was the decision to just keep racing the best we could,” driver Nicolai Sehested said after racing.

One of the biggest talking points of the weekend also took place in the first fleet race, with Australia driver Tom Slingsby dramatically - and deliberately - steering into a race mark while approaching the course boundary after Mark 1.

Speaking about the incident after racing, driver Tom Slingsby said he opted to hit the mark to avoid a collision with Canada.

Season 4 // Australia mark collision incident in Christchurch Mark 1

“All I knew is that we were going to hit Canada, and our bow was headed straight for their strategist - I had a choice to make and I just tried to keep people safe, so I just turned the boat as hard as I could into the mark. It was either that or go straight through Canada.”

Season 4 // Tom Slingsby debriefs Australia race mark collision in Christchurch

The Australians were handed the harshest penalty of the weekend for the collision - losing 12 event points and 8 season points. Speaking after racing, Slingsby said he disagreed the team should take all the blame, arguing the mark shouldn’t have been in that position.

Season 4 // Close call between Switzerland and New Zealand in Christchurch

“The Australian team totally disagrees with the umpires’ point of view and feel the event should take more responsibility for the incident,” said Mitchell. He conceded that ‘the mark was not in an ideal position’ but argued ‘it was there long enough for teams to be aware of it and take steps to avoid it’.

Reflecting on the weekend of collisions and penalties, he added: "The points penalties are harsh and can have a big impact on a team’s season, but the league is committed to reducing contact between boats in order to keep all boats racing and not get to the situation where teams miss regattas due to equipment breakage.”