New Zealand have finally claimed their first regatta victory in SailGP.
The team, led by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, made their first podium race and made it count in Plymouth on Monday (ZT), beating Australia and Denmark in the medal race.
The Kiwi victory ended Australia’s five-regatta winning streak and gives the team huge confidence.
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.
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“I think a lot of people would have expected this of us by now and it’s great to have put together a good weekend and put in such a dominant performance. We have been working really hard to improve and I think we truly proved that today, we are just so much more comfortable with the boat now than we have been.”
New Zealand were quickest off the line in the final, 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 Nicolai Sehested who was able to recover the quickest. However, an aggressive match racing maneuver by Burling stole the lead from Denmark at gate three, and it was the Kiwis which dominated from there.
It followed a weekend of calculated and skilful racing by Burling’s crew, who picked up a 2-2-1-5-1 fleet racing record in front of bumper crowds on Plymouth Hoe.
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 favorites 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.
As event winners, New Zealand added 10 points to the leaderboard, putting them third in the championship with 22 points overall behind Australia in first (29 points) and Great Britain in second (24 points).
Heading into Copenhagen on August 19-20, Burling says the team is feeling assured with the momentum of their stand-out performance in Plymouth behind them.
“We’re definitely entering a busy part of the season with Copenhagen in three weeks time, then straight into St Tropez and Cadiz, so to be able to win here in Plymouth gives us a lot of confidence as we take on the rest of the European circuit,” Burling said.
Before the day’s official racing in Plymouth, Sir Ben Ainslie’s British F50 was driven by The Duchess of Cambridge in a friendly Commonwealth race against New Zealand, accompanied by UN Patron for the Ocean Lewis Pugh, on the event racecourse, with the home team emerging victorious .
The Duchess also visited the SailGP technical site in her role as Patron of the 1851 Trust, the official charity of the Great Britain SailGP Team, where she joined a group of children taking part in the Protect Our Future sustainability program.
“The Commonwealth race was a pretty special way to start the day,” Tuke said. “It was great to spend some time talking to Her Royal Highness about ocean conservation and the power of sport to connect people to such critical messages.”
SAILGP SEASON 3 POINTS (after 3 of 11 events)
1 Australia 29 points, 2 Gt Britain 24, 3 New Zealand 22, 4 Canada 22, 5 Denmark 20, 6 France 15, 7 United States 13, 8 Spain 8; 9 Switzerland 7