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New Zealand SailGP team sets its sights on St Tropez this weekend

by James Rigby/NZSailGP 10 Sep 16:41 PDT 11 September 2021
New Zealand SailGP Team helmed by Peter Burling SailGP, Event 5, Season 2 in Saint-Tropez, France. 10 September . Photo: Ricardo Pinto for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP © Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

The New Zealand SailGP Team will be looking to continue its rise up the leaderboard when SailGP makes its debut in the world-famous seaside resort of Saint-Tropez this weekend for the France Sail Grand Prix (September 11-12).

It has been a short build-up to the fifth event on the global sailing championship calendar, with just one day of practice racing today on the French Riviera.

But a promising showing from the New Zealand SailGP Team in challenging conditions will give Peter Burling and Blair Tuke’s outfit plenty of confidence heading into the first official race day tomorrow (live on Sky Sport NZ at 11.30pm NZT).

Wing trimmer Blair Tuke said: “It was a pretty good first day for us. We only get one practice day so we really had to make the most of it. Conditions were challenging with a big sea state which is the first time we’ve had that in the F50.

“It was pretty much the opposite of the Denmark Sail Grand Prix which was blowing straight offshore. Today was full onshore and quite a choppy sea state so it was really challenging but the team did well. We got a few good races in and we’re set up quite nicely for the weekend so we’ll debrief tonight and look to refine a few things ahead of the weekend.

Driver Peter Burling agreed: “It was a pretty tricky day out there. There were some quite big waves and quite different conditions to what we’ve ever sailed these boats in before, so it was a lot about learning and trying to figure out how to do the manoeuvres well on the high speed boards with the big wing. It was quite an unusual configuration but definitely a fun day of sailing. We seem to be shaping up pretty well but it looks like it’s going to be a completely different breeze tomorrow so we’ll see how we go.”

Wind conditions are expected to be considerably lighter tomorrow but waves will still make racing the supercharged F50s a challenging affair.

Adding to the unconventional build-up to the France Sail Grand Prix, teams have been sharing tents due to the limited real estate available for the Tech Site in Saint-Tropez.

The New Zealand SailGP Team has been sharing with the Spanish, and Tuke said it had been a great experience.

“It’s quite a fun dynamic, we’ve got the black Kiwi boat looking awesome in there amongst the red and yellow colours of Spain,” he said.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with Xabi [Fernandez] who I sailed around the world with and we’ve raced against Diego [Botin] in the 49er so it’s a great team to be paired up with, there’s plenty of banter so we’re enjoying it.”

Erica Dawson re-joins the New Zealand SailGP Team in Saint-Tropez following her Tokyo Olympic campaign as the team now returns to its full complement of athletes.

The New Zealand SailGP Team is currently in fifth position on the leaderboard nearing the halfway mark in the season, and Tuke is under no illusions as to how important this weekend’s result is to ensure his team climbs into the top three.

“There’s no hiding that this weekend is important for us as a team,” Tuke said. “It was a tough start to the season with a lot of rotations whereas this is the first event where we’re going back-to-back with the same crew so that’s fantastic and it means we can concentrate on our performance and getting into it, so we’re really here to try and make that final race and take it from there. That’s the goal and we’re right up for it.”

Burling said: “We’re definitely getting to the business end of the competition now. We’re getting a lot more consistency in our group which is really nice that we can continue to build. We really felt like we were a lot closer to the competition in Aarhus and had some good opportunities to do well in races but couldn’t quite capitalise on that. This week is going to be the same, it feels like we’ve got a good group together and we’re sailing the boat well - we just need to execute in the races.”

Off the water, the New Zealand SailGP Team continues to lead the Impact League.

Introduced for SailGP Season 2, the Impact League tracks the positive actions teams make to reduce their overall carbon footprint and help accelerate inclusivity in sailing.

At the end of the season there will be two podiums, with the winner of the Impact League crowned alongside the Season Champion,with prize money going to the winning team’s Race for the Future partner.

Burling said: “We’re incredibly passionate about our Race For The Future charity partner Live Ocean, a charity Blair and I founded a little under two years ago now before we got involved in SailGP and it’s something we believe we need to do more than just be athletes.

“We have an amazing platform to really push for change and for us that’s about driving awareness of the importance of a healthy ocean in a healthy future. That’s obviously only one criteria in the Impact League so there are a lot of different criteria across the board we’re measured against to reduce our impact and as a team we’re really challenging ourselves every day to get better.”

You can watch all the action from Day 1 of the France Sail Grand Prix on Sky Sport NZ from 2330 NZT on Saturday September 11, with a replay at 1030 on Sunday September 12.

For full viewing details visit sailgp.com/watch

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