Tom Slingsby and his Australian team showed why they are one of the most dominant forces in sport as they claimed a third straight SailGP Championship. In a dramatic race on a sparkling day on San Francisco Bay, Slingsby outfoxed his rivals and held off a stunning late challenge from Peter Burling’s New Zealand to claim the SailGP Season 3 title and $1 million prize.
After winning the final Sail Grand Prix of the season ahead of Emirates Great Britain and Canada, Slingsby made it a day to remember with victory in the Championship Final Race over Peter Burling’s New Zealand and Ben Ainslie driving for Great Britain.
Slingsby made his intentions clear from the outset of the season-deciding three boat race, with an aggressive strategy that saw him get the better of both Burling and Ainslie in the pre-start and lead them over the line.
Slingsby said: “It feels unbelievable obviously, that was just a crazy race, a crazy week, a crazy year, but this one feels the best, just the way we sailed all year. Just before the race I just said to everyone here that I’m so proud of them, and no matter whatever happens we win together and we lose together, and fortunately for us things went our way and we were able to win the Championship Final Race as well.”
Slingsby said it was satisfying to claim the title after being the dominant team all season, with Australia making the most finals and winning the most events.
Slingsby said: “For sure, I’m not going to lie, we’d have felt a little hard done by if we won the championship this year with an event to spare and won the San Fran event comfortably and then lost the season, that would have been really tough. But everyone from around the world tunes in because they don’t know who’s going to win. We had the three best teams out there and everyone got to witness an amazing race and I think that’s better for our sport as a whole – we’re going to create new interest, more spectators and fans and that’s a good thing.”
A late error just before the final mark from Australia had opened the unlikeliest of windows for New Zealand to claim victory, but Slingsby held on to deny his fierce rival Burling an upset win.
Burling said: “We got ourselves right back in there at the end, we dug deep, we didn’t give up and we kept fighting, and I’m gutted to not pull it off, but you have to hand it to the Aussies, they are incredible.”
After looking like being a serious threat for the title on day one of San Francisco racing with a blistering performance, it was a disappointing second day for Ainslie and his team as errors saw it finish a distant third in the three-boat final.
Ainslie said: “It wasn’t quite clicking for us today as it was yesterday, and the Championship Final Race wasn’t our finest that’s for sure. But you know, as a team we have learnt a lot this season and can be really proud. Hats off to the Australian team though, what a performance to do the three-peat, it’s a fantastic achievement.”
Earlier in the day France had kept its faint Championship hopes alive with victory in the first fleet race, but Quentin Delapierre finished sixth in the second to end his team’s season in fourth.
Canada finished second in the day’s second race behind Australia and ended its debut season in SailGP in fifth place. Nicolai Sehested’s Impact League winners Denmark endured a more difficult time on the water and finished fourth in the event standings. It meant they fell to sixth in the final Season 3 standings.
Jimmy Spithill’s year to forget for the United States ended on a bright note with a third place in the last fleet race of the season, but the home team finished the season in seventh.
The battle for last place was fiercely contested all weekend and ended with Switzerland and Sebastien Schneiter avoiding the foot of the ladder in its debut season. Spain continues its restructuring period under new driver Diego Botin and ended Season 3 in ninth.
Season 4 is just a month away and will open in spectacular fashion on June 16-17 at Chicago’s Navy Pier for the Rolex United States Sail Grand Prix. It’s the first of 12 events that will span the globe – and see a new team join the startline – before the league returns once again to San Francisco for its Season 4 Grand Final on July 13-14, 2024.