It was a day to remember at the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in Plymouth for Peter Burling and Blair Tuke’s New Zealand SailGP Team, as it claimed its first event win in SailGP. In the three-team final match race, New Zealand triumphed over fellow event final debutants, Nicolai Sehested’s Denmark and season standing leaders, Tom Slingsby’s Australia in challenging conditions on Plymouth Sound.
Before the day’s official racing, Sir Ben Ainslie’s British F50 was driven by The Duchess of Cambridge in a friendly Commonwealth race against New Zealand, accompanied by UN Patron for the Ocean Lewis Pugh, on the event racecourse, with the home team emerging victorious.
New Zealand bounced back from its loss to the Duchess of Cambridge in the best way possible, winning the second race of day two to secure a place in its first event final, and then storming to the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix win.
Burling said: “I think a lot of people would have expected this of us by now and it’s great to have put together a good weekend and put in such a dominant performance. We have been working really hard to improve and I think we truly proved that today, we are just so much more comfortable with the boat now than we have been.”
The Denmark SailGP Team presented by ROCKWOOL warmed up in the best possible way for its home event in just three weeks’ time with an impressive day two performance, delivering two second place finishes to secure a place in the three-boat podium final for the first time ever.
Sehested said: “It’s been a long time coming for us, and it’s really pleasing to have made the final but if I’m honest it feels a bit sour. We felt like with the wind shift we didn’t have much luck in the final and it destroyed our chances of winning but that’s racing.”
For the first time in a while it wasn’t Tom Slingsby and his Australian team on the winner’s podium, with a broken rudder – which was fixed in record time by the SailGP Technical Team – nearly prematurely ending their afternoon in race five.
Slingsby said: “We are not disappointed at all actually, we are ecstatic about coming second in this event, it was just a really tough day for us. It looked like we wouldn’t be in the final with a gear breakage but it was an incredible effort by our team to get us into that final. And to come away with second place, wow, we are really happy.”
Great Britain missed the final – and the chance of winning its first event of the season – in controversial circumstances with a late penalty against Australia meters from the finish line in the day’s final fleet race.
Ainslie said: “It’s really frustrating. I mean it’s tight in SailGP, it comes down to those narrow margins. Chief Umpire Craig Mitchell and I have had our disagreements in the past and I’m sure we will again in the future. I think it’s a bad call, it’s really frustrating and we are really disappointed, but that’s top-level sport, it happens, we have to take it on the chin and move on.”
The United States SailGP Team finished in seventh overall, but CEO and Driver Jimmy Spithill has faith that the early investment in strengthening the team’s foundation will pay dividends over the 11-event season.
“We’ve made an investment in this combination,” Spithill said. He points to first-time event winners, the New Zealand SailGP Team as an example of how patience and persistence can pay off. “Look at the Kiwis; it’s taken them the entire season to sharpen up, and we feel we’re on a similar path. We’re slightly chipping away, but we’ve got to be realistic and it’s going to take some time.”
The European leg of the championship continues in Copenhagen for the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix on August 19-20. For tickets, head to SailGP.com/Copenhagen for more information, and for details on how to watch the action in Denmark head to SailGP.com/watch.
GREAT BRITAIN SAIL GRAND PRIX | PLYMOUTH // FINAL STANDINGS
1 // New Zealand // 10 points
2 // Australia // 9 points
3 // Denmark // 8 points
4 // Great Britain // 7 points
5 // France // 6 points
6 // Canada // 5 points
7 // United States // 4 points
8 // Switzerland // 3 points
9 // Spain // 2 points
Individual race results can be found at SailGP.com/results.
SAILGP SEASON 3 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after three events) //
1 // Australia // 29 points
2 // Great Britain // 24 points
3 // New Zealand // 22 points
4 // Canada // 22 points
5 // Denmark // 20 points
6 // France // 15 points
7 // United States // 13 points
8 // Spain // 8 points
9 // Switzerland // 7 points