SailGP’s New Zealanders Win Destructive Event No. 9

SailGP's New Zealand team delivers a decisive win at the season's ninth event, noted for a good bit of damage across the fleet.
SailGP New Zealand's "Black Foils" team
SailGP New Zealand’s “Black Foils” team won SailGP’s ninth season event by avoiding the chaos of the Christchurch event. Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

SailGP event No. 9, the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch, was messy and unhinged from start to finish, but by Sunday afternoon it was SailGP’s Kiwi squad that emerged as the regatta winner, craftily steering clear of the chaos and doing what they do best: finding space on the racecourse to deliver unmatched pace and precision with its boat handling.

After the cancellation of racing on the regatta’s opening day, due to the presence of protected dolphins in the race area, SailGP race management put three fleet races and the three-boat finale onto the docket.

The first race featured the French team’s stunner of a slingshot start that got them to Mark 1 first and just ahead of the pack as it approached the racecourse boundary. As boats behind them jibed, the Australian team found itself in the wrong place at the wrong time and was unable to avoid a high-speed collision with one of the course’s finish marks. Damage to the Australian F50 brought their regatta to grinding and indefinite halt.

“The moment was a blur,” skipper Tom Slingsby said after racing. “As we rounded the mark we had two boats on our inside and we looked like we were going to hit Canada. The decision was so quick but keeping the team safe is the most important thing so we went straight for the mark.”

Australian skipper Tom Slingsby
After racing, Australian skipper Tom Slingsby said his choice was take out the Canadian team or the race mark, and he chose the path of least destruction. Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

The French were able to streak away and build a comfortable lead, but once they were on the open course, the New Zealanders were plenty fast and efficient enough to get past the French and pocket a win.

With the starboard end of the finish gate taken destroyed by the Australians, the race committee put a RIB on station and the New Zealand, French, Spanish, Great Britain and Canadian teams sailed through in that order, but the German and Swiss teams that followed sailed to leeward of the left-hand mark, seemingly finishing incorrectly. The Danish team finished properly, as did the US team as the last boat to cross, but the results remained unchanged, which appeared to confuse the event’s broadcasters and added more drama to the first race. The results stood, however.

With the Australian’s out for good, the fleet was down to nine boats and Race No. 2 was all for Canadians to savor. Skipper Phil Robertson delivered a decisive win and was happy to have survived what he would later call a “demolition derby.”

The third and final fleet race had skipper Quentin Delapierre and his teammates of the France team leading wire to wire after another slingshot start from the leeward end of the line, resulting in three races featuring three different winners and setting up the three-boat podium final with France, New Zealand and Canada.

With a relatively even start for all three teams, the New Zealanders got to Mark 1 first, but off the boundary jibe Canada was hot on their transom. Robertson, who later shared that his boat was full of water as result of a collision with Denmark in the first start, opted not to follow New Zealand after the first leeward gate, tacked away to the left side of the course and that was the end of them. The French gave chase, but the Kiwis were not to be touched once out front.

Sailboats near Christchurch
New Zealand’s picturesque city of Christchurch proved challenging for race organizers, forced to cancel racing on the first day due to protected dolphins lingering on the racecourse. Brett Phibbs for SailGP

“Today has been the best day in SailGP history and to come out on the right side of it after such a battle to get into the final is something I am just blown away by,” Burling said after racing. “Being able to sail in front of our home crowd is something we have been looking forward to all season and to take out today in front of them has been incredible.”

On finishing second to the New Zealanders, Robertson said: “We were so close to nailing the start of the final, we had a plan and were so close to exiting it and the Kiwis just did a really good job to get a tiny hook on us. We come away from the weekend one place higher on the leaderboard and are closing on the top three so all in all a great weekend.”

The win for New Zealand and the resulting penalty points awarded to Australia for the damage to the race mark – a total of 8 season points – sees the Kiwi’s retain the overall leaderboard, 9 points in front of Australia. The Australian’s, however, have requested a points penalty review, citing some culpability on the part of the race committee for placing marks so close to the boundary and the Mark 1 exit zone.

“I feel like the event shouldn’t have had those marks there,” Slingsby said after racing. “It was a huge accident waiting to happen.”

Nathan Outteridge, newly anointed as the helmsman of the Swiss team also noted that the race committee’s decision to require use of the light-air foils in what proved to be above their range made handling the boat all the more challenging for his and other teams: “It was challenging on the light-boards, probably should have been on the high-speed boards, in hindsight, but we’re happy we didn’t hurt anyone or hit anyone.”

Sailboats racing
With Mark 1 so close to the shoreline and a quick run to the boundary, the first jibe proved to be critical as usual. Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

Another team to slide down the overall leaderboard following the weekend’s racing was Nicolai Sehested’s ROCKWOOL Denmark who was docked four season points for an incident at the start of the first race with Canada, causing substantial damage to the bow of its F50.

The US team, which skipper Taylor Canfield said would be a “disrupter” to the pecking order during the event’s opening press conference, was nothing of the sort. A collision with Denmark in the pre-start of Race 1 inflicted superficial damage to their starboard hull, but in their first full-foiling event they were second row in two of three starts, off the pace, and struggling with their boat handling, finishing last in all three races.

“It was epic racing conditions and the crowds were great,” Canfield said after racing describing his team’s performance as “a little sloppy.”

Our learning curve is so steep but we are still in the phase of making mistakes,” he added, “which makes it hard to stay in the front of the pack.”

SailGP race in New Zealand
The New Zealanders led in to Mark 1 in the three-boat finale and remained firmly in the lead to win the regatta. Chloe Knott for SailGP

The US team’s wing trimmer, Victor Diaz de Leon, was pragmatic in his assessment of the team’s performance: “Today felt like one of those days where you take three steps forward and two back. We went out feeling really good at first, and as competitors, today’s performance is a tough pill to swallow. However, while the results don’t reflect it, the team did make a lot of progress today and we’ll take today’s learnings to improve.”

Next up on the SailGP calendar is Bermuda in early May.


1New Zealand
7Emirates GBR*
8United States
9Rockwool Denmark*

Event penalties

Emirates Great Britain penalized eight points for making contact with Switzerland SailGP Team during practice racing

Australia SailGP Team penalized 12 points for making contact causing boat damage with racecourse mark during Fleet Race 1. Review in process.

ROCKWOOL Denmark penalized eight points for making contact with Canada SailGP Team during Fleet Race 1


1New Zealand*68
5Rockwool Denmark*50
8Emirates GBR*45

Season penalties

Australia SailGP Team – docked eight points in Season Championship for 12-point penalty at ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch

Canada SailGP Team – docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez

Emirates Great Britain – docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch

Germany SailGP Team – docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix

ROCKWOOL Denmark – docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch

Spain SailGP Team – docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía – Cádiz

Switzerland SailGP Team – docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council

New Zealand SailGP Team – granted six event points for ROCKWOOL Italy Sail Grand Prix | Taranto as unable to compete due to wing damage suffered at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez