Peter Burling’s New Zealand has triumphed in its first ever SailGP final and taken the title of the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix after a weekend of masterful racing on the waters of Plymouth Sound.
The Kiwi team finally look to have cracked the F50 code after breaking the five-strong winning streak of two-time champions Australia and pushing Nicolai Sehested’s Denmark into third.
It was Peter Burling’s team that were quickest off the line, followed by Denmark in close second and Australia lagging in third, marking the first time Tom Slingsby’s crew was not first to mark one in the three boat winner-takes-all final.
All three boats came off the foils as light winds plagued the bottom of the course but it was Sehested who was able to recover the quickest. However, an aggressive match racing manoeuvre by Burling stole the lead from Denmark at gate three and it was the Kiwis which dominated from there on in.
It followed a weekend of calculated and skillful racing by Peter Burling’s crew, who picked up a 2-2-1-5-1 fleet racing record in front of bumper crowds on Plymouth Hoe.
Speaking about his first ever win, Peter Burling said the team was ‘stoked to be in [their] first Final’. “It was an awesome effort from the team – it’s been a big push to get to this point but I’m really pleased with the way we’ve been sailing and improving.”
Both New Zealand and Denmark secured places in their debut SailGP Final after a second day of neck and neck racing in changeable conditions.
Crews were caught off guard by puffy conditions, which saw wind directions shift by as much as 60 degrees and fluctuate from 35 km/h to just 9 km/h.
It was a devastating day for home favourites Great Britain however, which missed out on a place in the Final by the narrowest of margins. A last minute penalty for a close cross to the Aussies was handed to Great Britain just 200m from the finish line of the fifth fleet race, handing the third Final place to the Danish.
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.”
Councillor Richard Bingley, Leader of Plymouth City Council, said: “What an absolutely fantastic weekend in Britain’s Ocean City! We were honored to host the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in the UK’s first National Marine Park for the second year running. With SailGP comes a raft of benefits for Plymouth, including attracting thousands of visitors to our waterfront, providing a welcome boost to the local economy and raising the city’s profile on a global stage.”
The European leg of the championship continues in Copenhagen for the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix on August 19-20.
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
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