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SailGP Bermuda: Kiwis make big improvement on Day 2 despite pre-start system failures

by James Rigby 25 Apr 16:10 PDT
New Zealand SailGP Team helmed by Peter Burling leading Great Britain SailGP Team helmed by Sir Ben Ainslie and Australia SailGP Team helmed by Tom Slingsby on Race Day 2 of Bermuda SailGP © Simon Bruty /SailGP

The New Zealand SailGP Team delivered an improved performance at the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess in a drama-filled second day on the Great Sound.

After winning four of the five fleet races, Tom Slingsby's Australia was eclipsed in the final podium race by Sir Ben Ainslie's Great Britain who produced a stunning come-from-behind victory to be crowned champions.

There was no shortage of chaos in the plus-20 knot conditions as Japan collided heavily with USA in Race 4 and Jimmy Spithill then capsized only moments later while assessing the damage.

New Zealand finished fifth on the points table overall after recording a fourth and fifth place in Races 4 and 5 but failed to qualify for the podium race.

Blair Tuke said: "I'm really proud of the way we kept chipping away as a group this week. It's been a big learning curve for all of the sailors and the shore crew to come into this league pretty fresh and to put a new boat together and then get sailing it.

"It's been a huge effort from the whole group so to come away with fifth here and with the remainder of the season ahead of us we're happy with that, especially with all the improvements left on the table."

The New Zealand SailGP Team had to overcome a number of last-minute technical difficulties to make the start line.

Peter Burling said: "It was great to actually make the races today. We had an issue when we were first sailing out so that meant we didn't get any build up and we had the boat builders in the pod grinding away trying to reinstate something as well as the hydro guys in there fixing a couple of things.

"It was a massive effort by the tech team and our shore group to get us to that first race and then obviously it was really enjoyable to actually get the boat around the track in pretty good shape and we're happy with how the day unfolded from there. We haven't actually sailed with those 18 metre wings before and we felt we were sailing the boat a whole heap better than the first day so that's all we can ask for."

Tuke agreed: "It was a good improvement from our group today to get the boat around the track with minimal practice and be right up there fighting at the front, so with the rest of the season ahead we're feeling much better with how today went. "

On fleet race four where the New Zealand SailGP Team finished fourth, Burling said: "We got off to a reasonably solid start down the leeward end. We were probably a second or so late which meant the British and Australians rolled over us but then we managed to do reasonable work down the run. On the first beat we had a bit of an issue with our jib. We couldn't pull it on which meant we dropped out of contention of the front couple but it was cool to continue fighting and end up in fourth. It was pleasing we were able to get the boat around the track in pretty good shape, going fast enough and doing some pretty nice tacks and gybes."

On the fleet Race 5 where the New Zealand SailGP Team finished fifth, Burling said: "The second race was cool to be leading at the first reach mark. We didn't manage to pull off the best gybe to create a little situation between us and the British which cost both of us a lot coming into the bottom mark. It was a shame to not convert a good start like that into a good result but I think for us fifth on the leaderboard is something we're pretty happy with all things considered this week."

Burling believes there is plenty of improvement in the team ahead of the Italy Grand Prix in Taranto on June 5-6.

"There are so many areas that we really need to improve on so it's just about tidying up every little thing. We've come into this event pretty late with a small group and it's been something that's been a massive learning opportunity for us.

"We're just figuring out where to put the effort between these events now, what the differences are going to be and where we need to improve but on the whole we're really happy with how this week went and we're looking forward to more racing to come."

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