Jimmy Spithill stunned shoreside crowds by driving Australia to the top of the leaderboard with 26 points on the first day of racing in Dubai.
A calm and calculated performance from the Season 4 leaders resulted in a sparkling 3-1-3 race record as Spithill guided the green and gold F50 around the tight racecourse of Mina Rashid.
Patchy wind conditions of 15km/h - 17km/h and treacherous wind holes throughout the course saw the racing crews slimmed down from six to just four.
Speaking during racing, Spithill described the racetrack as ‘hectic’ and paid tribute to the calibre of the Australian crew.
“The ability to pull off maneuvers consistently will pay dividends [on this racetrack]. It’s a real privilege and honor to get to come in here. As an athlete you have few opportunities to come into a team like this.”
It comes after Spithill, who is subbing in for permanent driver Tom Slingsby, had a rocky practice racing day - with the team finishing in 8th overall. However, SailGP fans had faith in Spithill’s abilities, backing him to deliver Australia’s first victory of Season 4 in Dubai.
Peter Burling’s New Zealand and Phil Robertson’s Canada also had solid first days, finishing second and third respectively with 21 points. The Kiwis ended the day with a 6-2-4 race record, while Canada benefited from the addition of new wing trimmer Paul Campbell-James to pick up a race win, followed by a 3rd and 8th place finish.
Elsewhere, Emirates GBR, the honorary home team in Dubai, had a disappointing start to the day, with lackluster starts resulting in a 5th and 7th place finish. But the Brits battled back in Fleet Race 3, climbing through the fleet and securing a race win. This leaves Emirates GBR in 4th overall and in reach of the event podium heading into day two.
Elsewhere, Taylor Canfield’s revamped USA team had the chance to test their mettle against the full F50 fleet for the first time. While the team performed well in starts - even reaching Mark 1 position in 2nd in Race 2, they were unable to hold their position, sliding backwards through the fleet to finish with an 8-9-9 race record.
There was plenty of drama elsewhere, with Germany picking up a dramatic Black Flag on the start line of Race 2 and France flying too high and dramatically nosediving in the third race of the day.