SAINT-TROPEZ, FRANCE – September 12, 2021 – The New Zealand SailGP Team is well positioned to challenge for its first podium race following a solid performance on the opening day of the France Sail Grand Prix.
Against the stunning backdrop of the seaside resort of Saint-Tropez, the Kiwis recorded a consistent fourth, third and third place finish in the three fleet races to finish the day in second place overall on 17 points, three points adrift of leaders the USA SailGP Team.
Light winds on the French Riviera once again saw all teams reduced to just three crew, but the New Zealand SailGP Team, with Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney remaining onboard, responded to the challenge well.
New Zealand got off to a flying start in Race 1 to lead around the first mark before slipping back to finish fourth as Phil Robertson’s Spanish SailGP Team came in and pipped them at the finish line with an assertive move.
However strong comebacks in the second and third fleet races showed plenty of resolve as New Zealand finished day one of the two day event in its strongest position so far this season.
Wing trimmer Blair Tuke said: “It’s nice to be in the top few after day one which hasn’t been the case for us yet this season so all-in-all it was a pretty good day for us.
“In this style of racing the margins are very small and unfortunately we left some points on the water today. Especially in the first race we could have done a bit better, but I’m really proud of the fight back from the team in the last two races and we’re now right in the hunt for tomorrow.”
Driver Peter Burling said: “We’re happy to be second overall but it definitely felt like we left a lot of points out there today so it was a little bit frustrating. We’re sailing the boat three up a lot better than we were in Denmark so that’s definitely the positive.”
With two fleet races remaining before the all-important winner-takes-all podium race tomorrow, Tuke said it was important the team came out firing.
“The goal this weekend is to make it into the final podium race so it’s pretty pleasing that we’ve got ourselves in a position to do that today. We’ve just got to come out firing tomorrow and sail well for two races and that should see us make it in there. It’s nice to have the ball in our court but there’s still a lot of hard work to do to make sure we get there.”
Burling said: “It would be great for us to make our first podium race. We’re still learning and trying to keep improving but we feel like we’ve got a good opportunity to execute well tomorrow and get through into that podium race and take it from there.”
Adding to the challenge, teams will be racing with the newly commissioned 29-metre wing for the first time tomorrow.
The largest wing in SailGP, it has been designed to allow the F50s to foil in lighter winds but has not yet been sailed by the majority of the fleet including the New Zealand SailGP Team.
Tuke said: “We’ve had an updated call which will see us sailing on the 29-metre wing tomorrow so it’s a new configuration and it’s pretty new for the whole fleet so it’ll be the first time racing with that and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“We’re not sure what crew configuration we will sail with tomorrow, hopefully four or five as it would be nice to have our mates back onboard, but we’ll have to wait and see.
“What’s pretty awesome about these boats and especially the wings is they’re modular so you can add sections and go all the way from 18 metres to 24 metres which is what we had today, and then right up to 29 metres so it’s a huge range.
“The 29-metre wing is pretty tall so it’s got a big influence on the boat and the foils below it so it’s going to be a challenge but an exciting one.”
You can watch all the action from Day 2 of the France Sail Grand Prix on Sky Sport NZ from 2330 NZT on Sunday September 12, with a replay at 0900 on Monday September 13.
For full viewing details visit sailgp.com/watch