Jimmy Spithill and the United States claimed an emotional and remarkable first win of SailGP Season 4 at the Spain Sail Grand Prix in Cádiz, Andalucía. Having lost flight controller Hans Henken to injury in Taranto, and after scraping into the final after a huge New Zealand error, the United States produced a stunning race to win the fifth event.
Nicolai Sehested’s ROCKWOOL Denmark SailGP Team was undoubtedly the favorite for a historic first ever SailGP victory after dominating wins in races four and five – however the Danes got caught in a battle with Tom Slingsby’s Australia. That allowed Spithill and the United States, with Taylor Canfield coming in as flight controller after Henken’s unfortunate injury, to pounce and never look back.
“We really want to dedicate this win to Hans. It was such a massive blow for the team in Italy and a tough moment to go through but it inspired us and gave us a real amount of purpose.
“At the same time, I really want to credit Taylor. He jumped in at the deep end with such a great attitude and hunger for knowledge. The start [in the final] was 100 percent my fault but it doesn’t faze this team. It doesn’t matter where we are, we’re just going to fight until the end. From then on we extended and built a great lead.”
Galling for ROCKWOOL Denmark was not just that it built a huge early lead in the final but that the United States impressively overcame a penalty before the start. Sehested got the better of Slingsby’s Australia for second – not a historic first win but still his best ever SailGP result. Denmark also surged to second in the overall championship in a congested leaderboard that sees the United States, Spain and Emirates GBR all tied for third place.
Sehested said: “I think we deserved a bit more but that is sport. We are happy, we are consistent and we will keep our heads down and keep working hard and a win will come. We have a really good team that’s functioning well together. I said when we started we are going to do it our way, we aren’t going to be rockstars but a very good squad that works together. That is proving to work for us.”
Third for Slingsby’s Australia once again demonstrates the team’s consistency – and extends its lead at the top of the overall championship. The agonizing wait for an event win in Season 4 continues for the triple SailGP winners.
Slingsby said: “I am getting quite sick of hearing ‘oh, it’s good for the overall points’ at the end of an event. I want to hear ‘well done, you guys won’. It’s frustrating. I understand it’s a good result but that’s five finals in a row and we haven’t won one. I want to sail better.”
In a dramatic series of events at the end of the fifth race, Sir Ben Ainslie’s Emirates GBR cost Peter Burling’s New Zealand a place in the final three-boat podium race. The Kiwis were trapped by Emirates GBR after the third mark – who were trailing behind them and still on the previous leg – and received a penalty. This put them back behind the U.S. team – who they had just got past – and meant they just lost out on the final to the Americans.
Burling said: “It was pretty easy for Ben [Ainslie] to go up a couple of degrees and take someone’s transom. Like every yacht race, when you’re on opposite legs you try and do what you can to work with the other boats around you and he obviously wanted to try and take us out of the final, which he did a nice job of. It was a bit unfortunate for us.”
Heading into that fifth race hosts Diego Botín and Spain, popular winners of race one in Cádiz on the opening day, were the other team in with a shout of making the final. Spain had a nightmare race though, finishing last, and ended up ranking sixth at the team’s home event.
Winner of the previous two events in Saint-Tropez and Taranto, Ainslie’s Emirates GBR was unable to emulate its strong run of form with a seventh and sixth on day two, resulting in an eighth place finish overall.
Phil Robertson’s Canada improved two places in the final standings from day one to rank fifth after a fifth and a third on day two. Quentin Delapierre and France, one of three different winners on day one, struggled, finishing ninth and seventh.
Season 4 of SailGP now heads to the United Arab Emirates for its next two events, starting with the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas on December 9-10. For details and tickets head to SailGP.com/Dubai.
SPAIN SAIL GRAND PRIX | ANDALUCÍA – CÁDIZ // FINAL STANDINGS
1 // United States 10 points
2 // ROCKWOOL Denmark 9 points
3 // Australia 8 points
4 // New Zealand // 7 points
5 // Canada // 6 points
6 // Spain // 5 points
7 // France // 4 points
8 // Emirates GBR // 3 points
9 // Germany // 2 points
10 // Switzerland // 1 point
SAILGP SEASON 4 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after five events)
1 // Australia // 43 points
2 // ROCKWOOL Denmark // 36 points
3 // United States // 32 points
4 // Spain // 32 points*
5 // Emirates GBR // 32 points
6 // New Zealand // 30 points**
7 // Canada // 24 points***
8 // France // 24 points
9 // Switzerland // 11 points
10 // Germany // 8 points****
*Spain SailGP Team docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía – Cádiz
**New Zealand SailGP Team unable to compete in Taranto due to the structural failure of the team’s wingsail at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
***Canada SailGP Team Docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
****Germany SailGP Team docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix