The stage is set for SailGP’s return to Europe, with New Zealand’s biggest rivals promising “more aggression” and a quest for revenge against the Kiwis.
At this morning’s pre-event press conference, Australian driver Tom Slingsby admitted last season’s dramatic incident is one he’ll “never let go,” describing “having to watch the replays and promos on repeat, non-stop of [me] losing my cool.”
New Zealand driver Peter Burling joked: “I think we all know Tom holds a grudge for quite a while.”
With light air forecast throughout the weekend, Burling said: “It’s a bit of a shame we’re not shaping up for windier conditions, but that just means the confrontations will be a little bit slower. We always love a good battle with Australia and looking forward to another one this weekend.”
Historically, the Kiwis’ track record in Saint-Tropez would bode well for the showdown. New Zealand dominated the European leg last season, finishing second in Saint-Tropez after back-to-back wins in Plymouth and Copenhagen. While Slingsby admitted the venue has been a “bogey one” for the three-time SailGP champions.
And New Zealand versus Australia won’t be the only rivalry on display. Following Kiwi flight controller’s Jason Saunders’ shock transfer to France, Swiss driver Sebastian Schneider said: “We’ll definitely be trying to keep the French behind us.”
New Zealand enters the weekend fifth on the season leaderboard after a disappointing seventh-place finish in Los Angeles – a performance Burling said he was keen to shake off. “It’s not been fun wearing that seventh since LA, but we really enjoy racing in Saint-Tropez and can’t wait to get back into it.”
“You’re seeing more teams performing at these events and that’s a really exciting place to be. Speaking for us as a team, we’re here to play the long game and we’re always trying to make changes that help us win at the end of the season – not just at individual events in the beginning.”
“Sometimes that means you go backwards temporarily but we’re here for the long haul and really pleased with the progress we’re making,” Burling said.
The France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez begins tomorrow Saturday 9 September at 11.30pm NZST.