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NZSailGP finishes fifth overall after controversial final day at SailGP Aarhus

by James Rigby 21 Aug 2021 16:02 PDT 22 August 2021
SailGP USA heading to the start line at Denmark SailGP, Event 3, Season 2 in Aarhus, Denmark © Matt Stephens/SailGP

The New Zealand SailGP Team showed plenty of promising signs in Aarhus but a few errors proved costly in the light winds as it finished the Rockwool Denmark Sail Grand Prix in fifth position.

New Zealand’s returning Olympians Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Josh Junior and Andy Maloney were racing together for the first time since the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix, and they started the day in fifth position following a solid first day of fleet racing.

But an eighth place finish in the opening fleet race of the day cost New Zealand dearly as it failed to make it into the ‘winner-takes-all’ final podium race despite an impressive third place finish in Race 5.

It was another dominant performance for Tom Slingsby’s Australia SailGP Team as the reigning SailGP champions emerged victorious to clinch back-to-back event wins and consolidate its position at the top of the ladder.

Wing trimmer Blair Tuke said: “We’ve got mixed feelings finishing in fifth place. We’ve done some really good things over the two race days but the results don’t lie; we weren’t quite good enough to get into the final race today.

“The first race in particular left us with a lot of work to do so that was disappointing. All-in-all this weekend I think the team sailed really well. It’s been great to have the full team back together and it gives us plenty of confidence going forward.”

Driver Peter Burling said: “It was a massive improvement for us as a team this week. Right from the beginning of the event we’ve been saying it’s all about learning, improving and progressing forward.

“This event it felt like we were more on the unlucky side to finish fifth. We definitely had a lot of opportunities yesterday and then we obviously had one really bad race in that first race today which set us back a bit.

“Our penalty points for the little contact we got with France yesterday also cost us but nonetheless we’re really happy to walk away with a solid result and we’ll keep building from here. We’ll go back and debrief after this event and hopefully come out stronger in St Tropez.”

In very light conditions, all boats were reduced from five athletes to just three to allow for a lower take-off speed, with Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney remaining onboard the F50 to race in this format together for the first time.

Their relative inexperience sailing three-up compared to the rest of the fleet was highlighted in Race 4 as the New Zealand team finished last.

Tuke said: “Today was difficult, we had to go into a configuration where we only sailed the boat with three people. We lost grinders Josh [Junior] and Louis [Sinclair] off the boat so that was challenging for Andy, Pete and I because we hadn’t actually sailed with that configuration before.

“The other teams over the previous events we haven’t been at [Italy and Great Britain] have sailed in that configuration before but it was a new one for us so with limited practice time before the start today we found it difficult, but we still would have expected a bit more from ourselves in that first race.”

The New Zealand SailGP Team responded well in Race 5, recovering from being pinned out at the start line by the Denmark SailGP Team to charge up the fleet and finish third.

Tuke said: “It was really pleasing in Race 5 to bounce back. We didn’t have a very good start on that one, it was really tricky and then we did a good move at the reaching mark and managed to get back into third and kept that for the rest of the race.

“It’s difficult, it really comes down to stringing two good races together on day two and we only managed to put one together and that’s not good enough to make it to the final so it’s disappointing but we have a lot of positives from the weekend.”

Heavyweights Great Britain, Japan and Australia all duked it out in the final podium race to vy for the title of Rockwool Denmark Sail Grand Prix champion.

The Japan SailGP Team’s Nathan Outteridge had previously demonstrated his prowess in the lighter airs to win the Italy Sail Grand Prix in June, and he once again dominated today's early fleet races to score consecutive victories.

But as the wind built slightly for the final podium race, it was the Australians who got out of the blocks fastest, and with Sir Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain SailGP Team being handed down a controversial penalty, the Australia SailGP Team cruised to a comfortable victory.

The back-to-back victory sees the Australians open up a lead at the top of the table for the first time, but with plenty more sailing still to come this season Tuke said there’s still everything to play for.

“After this weekend it’s the first time there has been a bit of a jump to the front but there’s still plenty of racing so we’ve got to keep concentrating on getting into that final race, that’s really where the points are and from there you’ve always got a shot for the overall win. That’s what the immediate goal is and I feel like we can do that over the next couple of events in Europe.”

The next event on the SailGP calendar is the France Sail Grand Prix in St Tropez (September 11-12).

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