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SailGP: Strong comeback not enough to compensate for Kiwis opening day

by James Rigby/NZSailGP 18 Dec 2021 13:55 PST 19 December 2021
New Zealand SailGP Team co-helmed by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke in action on Race Day 2. Australia Sail Grand Prix © Bob Martin/SailGP

The New Zealand SailGP Team staged a strong comeback on Day 2 of the Australia Sail Grand Prix presented by KPMG but it wasn’t enough to clinch a place in the final podium race as it finished fifth overall in Sydney today.

Needing a couple of big performances after a disappointing opening day on Sydney Harbour which saw New Zealand finish fifth, eighth and fifth, the Kiwis came flying out of the blocks in gusts reaching 42 km/h to record a second and third place finish in today’s two fleet races.

Higher winds saw all F50s change configurations to high speed boards, high speed rudders and the smallest 18-metre wing, which played to New Zealand’s strengths.

It should have been a victory for the New Zealand SailGP Team in the opening race of the day as it led for almost the entirety of the race, hitting a blistering speed of 88 km/h at the gun to streak ahead of the pack, more than 30 km/h faster than the next boat at the same time.

However a glitch in the software and a penalty just metres from the finish line gifted Japan the victory in a cruel blow for New Zealand.

The Kiwis once again started strongly in fleet race five and had a tight tussle with the Australians mid-way through the race, with Australia just sneaking ahead to take second place.

Japan’s Nathan Outteridge, racing a hybrid F50 featuring the British platform coupled with the Japanese wing and foils after Sir Ben Ainslie crashed into the Japanese on day one and was subsequently disqualified, won today’s two fleet races.

However it was a fairy-tale finish for hometown heroes the Australia SailGP Team in the winner-takes-all final podium race as Tom Slingsby’s outfit scored a convincing victory over Spain and the USA - winning its fourth event this season and avenging the defeat in Sydney in 2020 to be crowned champions.

New Zealand SailGP Team driver Peter Burling said: “It was obviously a very disappointing day yesterday but the pleasing thing today was how we bounced back. We came out swinging and you definitely saw in that first race we gave ourselves every opportunity to win it.

“We had a few little issues with the software on the boat telling us to go to the wrong place which let the Japanese get right back on our tail and we made a mistake at the end to lose it but it was still a much improved performance, and to back that up with a third in the last fleet race was pretty pleasing.”

The fifth place finish in Sydney extinguishes any hopes of making the grand final in San Francisco as New Zealand sits in fifth place on the overall season standings, but Burling said the team was determined to finish the season on a high.

“We’ll do a thorough debrief now as a team and make sure we have some pretty good notes from the week. Obviously every venue you go to there’s a huge amount of lessons to learn and steps forward to take as a group.

“We have a bit of downtime now over the holidays and we’ll then start rebuilding into San Francisco. We’re really looking forward to another outing in these boats and trying to give it our all to win an event.”

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