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SailGP Abu Dhabi: Kiwis win back to back Finals

by Richard Gladwell/ 14 Jan 03:50 PST 13-14 January 2024
Day 2 - Sail GP - Abu Dhabi - January 13, 2024 © Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

The NZSailGP team only made the Final of SailGP Abu Dhabi after the application of a tie breaker between them and the French team, both were locked in third place after the last two races in the qualifier series.

However come the time to lift their game, the Peter Burling skippered Kiwi team, put their mark on the Final from the outset crossing the start line with just half a second to spare, and getting that vital first leg jump, that has been a key factor in most of the other racing in Abu Dhabi.

To add to their advantage, the New Zealanders picked up a "Kiwi puff" as the wind kicked into its strongest strength of the day 12km or 6.5kts - coincidentally the minimum strength for America's Cup racing. That breeze, coming as it did on the first leg of the course - a beam reach - was almost enough to enable the Kiwis to pop onto their foils - sailing at 16kts. Had that happened, and had the Kiwis been able to stay on their foils during the rounding of Mark 1, then the sudden death Final would have developed into a very lopsided affair.

As it transpired, none of the ten teams managed to get foil-borne in any of the six races in the event, which will be the venue for the 2025 Grand Final.

The Final was sailed as a displacement event, with competitors using the big 29mtr wing sail, light weather/high lift boards, and just four crew.

The end to end win by the Kiwis was their second successive Final win, lifting them to second overall on the Season 4 points table, which is led by Australia on 56pts, with the Kiwis back on 50pts, and USA and Denmark tied of third place on 43pts. However the most impressive crew were the US team, led by Taylor Canfield, on just their second SailGP regatta. They were always in the hunt to make the three boat final, and finished third - after trying some bold tactical moves, which didn't yield a reward, to win the Final.

The Spanish crew skippered by Diego Botin sailed steadily all series, to win through to the Final. They won three of the six races, but were unable to match the Kiwis start in the Final, and finished second. On season points, they lie in fifth place - only one point away from third equal.

The light winds did not work the way of the Australian team, with Tom Slingsby back on the helm. They missed their first final in Season 4, after lying in last place off the startline penalty - in Race 5 - when they looked to have a Final spot locked and loaded.

Slingsby will be back performing in front of his home fans, when the SailGP circuit heads for Sydney on February 24-25. The Australian team leads the championship for 6pts -13pts clear of the third placed teams.

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