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SailGP Media Conference: Abu Dhabi to become the Grand Final Venue for Season 5

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz 13 Jan 02:46 PST
Media Conference - Sail GP - Abu Dhabi - January 12, 2024 © Simon Bruty/SailGP

The SailGP Media Conference took place in Abu Dhabi - Event 7 of Season 4.

Key points from the session were comments from New Zealand skipper Peter Burling on an offer made to the teams that they could race with the 29metre rig, which had collapsed in spectacular fashion in Saint Tropez on September 9, 2023.

"Prior to the event, and discussion we'd had, I didn't think we were going to be sailing on the 29metre wing. The bit I didn't agree with was that the teams had the option [of either rig]. We are very much a one design configuration. So to see the potential for a team to be sailing with different gear, was something I didn't agree with."

Phil Robertson had some frank comments to make on the umpire decision as to who was at fault at the end of the Final Race, as three teams rounded the final mark, and had a short distance to sail to the finish line, which was set very close to a seawall. As outside boat of the three, Canada was obliged to give room to the two boats inside, and did so. But they didn't have a lot of wriggle room to avoid hitting the seawall - and Robertson was perplexed about what they should have done which would have avoided then being penalised out of the Final. He then got onto the fact that the racing is umpired by team located in England, and that there need to be more connection with what is happening on the water rather than a computer screen.

However it was SailGP CEO Russell Coutts who dropped the bombshell. "This is the start of a long-term relationship we are going to have with Abu Dhabi. We're racing here for the first time, but we will be returning for many years to come. I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to say this, or not, but this will be the venue of our Grand Final for Season 5 onwards."

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