The New Zealand SailGP Team staked its claim for Season 3 Championship favoritism with an impressive display in front of a raucous set of home fans in Christchurch. Driver Peter Burling delivered a race win and two second place finishes to thrill the sellout crowd and finish the day in first place on the event standings.
New Zealander and Canada driver Phil Robertson enjoyed a return to form on home waters to lead his team to second place after a day that included victory in the day’s final race. Chasing the all important third place in the overall season standings, Sir Ben Ainslie’s Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team ended the day in third place after a series of consistent performances.
Ainslie’s chief rival for the Season 3 Grand Final placings, France driver Quentin Delapierre, won the day’s first race but faded as the day went on to end up in fourth. One spot behind sits season leaders Australia, with Tom Slingsby’s F50 suffering a rudder issue and dropped to last place in the day’s third race.
The day’s racing was delayed by 30 minutes after a number of dolphins were spotted on the racecourse. Under the guidance of Te Roopu Tiaki Whakaraupo Advisory Group, and in line with the league’s commitment to protecting the environments in which it races, SailGP has developed an industry-leading marine mammal management plan (MMMP), engaging experts and representatives from the Department of Conservation, Environment Canterbury and Lyttelton Port Company, as well as Te Hapu o Ngati Wheke Rapaki, to protect the Hector’s dolphins.
Burling said he felt his team had done the home fans proud as it ended the day with a stranglehold on the event standings.
Burling said: “It’s been amazing seeing how many people have been coming down here to cheer us on, not just in the ticketed area which had an absolutely amazing atmosphere the whole day, but from every vantage point around Lyttelton Harbour. It’s been amazing to see the support from home fans and it means the world to be able to put on a good show for them today.”
Robertson echoed Burling’s comments, saying it was the first time he could clearly hear the shoreline crowd from his F50.
Robertson said: “I was blown away. It’s the first time I’ve raced in New Zealand and there were so many people out. It was obviously nice to win a race, it was a tricky old day. We didn’t really get any time to warm up or even commission our new wing so we were chucked in the deep end and we just hoped that everything worked and it seemed to go alright. We slowly improved during the day and came away with the win.”
Ainslie and Burling battled throughout the day, with a close call between their F50s in the third race showing the tightness of the racecourse.
Ainslie said: “It was close racing. There was plenty of action between the boats and at those speeds you’ve got to really trust yourself, trust your team that you can pull off those maneuvers but for us it was just so exciting and amazing racing. I hope it was the same for the people watching on the shore and the TV.”
Elsewhere Denmark and the United States saw their Grand Final chances dim with disappointing days out; Nicolai Sehested’s Denmark SailGP Team presented by ROCKWOOL finished the day in eighth and Jimmy Spithill and the United States find themselves in sixth place. Spain’s rebuilding under new driver Diego Botin continued as it ended the day in last place, while Sebastien Schneiter’s Swiss team battled its way to seventh place after day one despite bringing new talent Glenn Ashby onboard.
In a sustainability milestone for the league, SailGP used automated race marks for the first time today. Developed by SailGP Technologies, the marks use electric engines to automatically GPS lock to a position on the race course, removing the need to anchor to the sea bed and reducing carbon emissions associated with using boats to lay marks. This enablesthe race course to be dynamically moved in real time and help SailGP’s on-water transition to clean energy.
Day two of racing starts at 3.00 p.m. local time and is live on TV3, Three Play and Sky Sports in New Zealand. Fans around the globe can watch from wherever they are at SailGP.com/watch.
ITM NEW ZEALAND SAIL GRAND PRIX | CHRISTCHURCH DAY TWO //
Day Two Racing (incl. Event Final): Sunday March 19, 3.00 p.m. – 4.30 p.m. New Zealand Daylight Time
ITM NEW ZEALAND SAIL GRAND PRIX | CHRISTCHURCH // DAY ONE STANDINGS (after 3 races)
1 // New Zealand // 28 points
2 // Canada // 24 points
3 // Great Britain // 23 points
4 // France // 21 points
5 // Australia // 18 points
6 // United States // 16 points
7 // Switzerland // 14 points
8 // Denmark // 10 points
9 // Spain // 8 points
SAILGP SEASON 3 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after nine events) //
1 // Australia // 76 points
2 // New Zealand // 64 points
3 // France // 63 points
4 // Great Britain // 61 points
5 // Denmark // 57 points
6 // United States // 52 points
7 // Canada // 49 points
8 // Spain // 27 points
9 // Switzerland // 25 points
*United States penalized 4 season points
*New Zealand penalized 4 season points
*Switzerland penalized 2 season points
*Spain penalized 2 season points