New Zealand has regained its grip on Season 4 after claiming a dramatic, last minute victory over Australia and Canada in Dubai.
The three boat final was defined by tense match racing between Australia and Canada, before New Zealand split the course at Gate 2, leaving all three boats to come together at the final mark rounding.
Despite crossing the finish line in first place, a last minute penalty denied Canada victory. New Zealand and Australia crossed the finish line almost side by side, and a matter of meters handed the event title to the Kiwis.
It marks a dramatic comeback for Peter Burling’s crew after a disappointing European season, cemented by the shocking collapse of the team’s 29m wing.
Speaking after racing, Burling described the Final as a ‘nail biter’, but said he and the team were ‘stoked to walk away with the win’ after a rocky start.
He reflected on the ‘disappointment’ of not being able to race ‘for half the European leg’. “I think today we’ve really showed what we’ve got as a team and to get this wing back up and get over everything in Saint-Tropez means we’re looking forward for things to come.”
Following the race, there was confusion about whether New Zealand or Australia had won.
Jimmy Spithill, who subbed in to drive Australia in place of permanent driver Tom Slingsby, said: “I don’t think any of us knew what the result was – there were multiple complications at the last gate.”
He added that he was ‘happy’ to give Australia ‘a decent result in the overalls’ but admitted he was ‘disappointed we didn’t get a win.’
He went on to reveal that Dubai would be his last event competing as a SailGP athlete.
“I’m basically retiring after this event, clearly I’m going to be heavily involved with the Italian team – running it, but I’m at the stage now where I need to let some new talent come through.”
He added that it was ‘fitting’ for his last SailGP race to be with the Australian team. “The last time I represented Australia was 23 years ago, to complete the circle and finish this last event, that’s it from me.”
The final day of racing in Dubai was punctuated with dramatic moments, with Emirates GBR’s 4th fleet race win swiftly followed by a Black Flag in Fleet Race 5 for barging in at the start line. The Brits, who had been on track to make the Final, were awarded 0 points for the race – taking them out of the running for the event crown.
Elsewhere, the Aussies came close to losing their spot in the Final but scraped into the three-boat showdown by beating Spain in the closing stages of Fleet Race 5.
The 10-strong F50 fleet will next meet for battle in Abu Dhabi on January 13-14 when the 7th event of Season 4 gets underway.