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Competition peaks as SailGP's ten national teams descend upon the waters of Sydney Harbour

by SailGP 22 Feb 22:23 PST 24-25 February 2024
KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix © Bob Martin for SailGP

With just one day remaining until the highly awaited KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix takes place on the picturesque waters of Sydney Harbour, anticipation builds across the fleet as the most exciting racing on water looks set to live up to its name as the teams get ready for a record fifth appearance down under, this weekend, February 24-25.

The eighth event of SailGP's Season 4 gets under way following the crowning of Peter Burling and the New Zealand SailGP Team as winners of the UAE - securing back-to-back wins at the last two events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Consecutive wins bump the Kiwis up to second place in the overall championship standings - closing the gap to a mere six points behind reigning champions and home team Tom Slingsby's Australia.

This weekend Burling misses the action to welcome the birth of his first child. Stepping in is the fleet's familiar face Nathan Outteridge - who took to the driver's seat of the ROCKWOOL Denmark SailGP Team in the absence of Nicolai Sehested in Abu Dhabi last month. Pressure rests on the shoulders of Outteridge and the New Zealand team to deliver a solid and skilled performance to remain on the podium.

Outteridge said: "It's a great opportunity for me to sail with a good group of people that I know so well, but also to try and get some really good points for the team. In Abu Dhabi, I didn't quite manage that for the Danes. I seemed to bump into Tom at the back of the fleet and so I'm hoping to bump into him at the front of the fleet this weekend."

The Aussies sit on top of the overall leaderboard despite not winning an event this season, but Slingsby and the Flying Roo are poised to harness the energy of home support - gunning for a season-first win and hoping that the familiarity of the race course will give them the upper hand. Also benefiting the Aussie team - who has seen a consistent crew since Season 1 - could be the fact that Official Practice Racing was canceled due to thunderstorms in Sydney. This meant the only teams that got any practice were the two teams that hadn't raced on Sydney Harbour before - Erik Heil's Germany and Taylor Canfield at the wheel of the new-look US team.

Slingsby said: "It's unfortunate but we need to take the right precautions if we have thunderstorms coming - SailGP as a league is doing that and I commend them for it. It's unfortunate that we can't get out there and train today but it's probably the right call. We'd prefer that they [Germany and United States] weren't as well, but that's just the way it is. Sydney is a tough venue. There's a lot of islands and channels and markers out there - I think it's fine that they're out there learning the venue."

In Abu Dhabi, Slingsby made a number of bold statements alluding to the fact that the younger generation has yet to step up and provide competition on the water - even though the Aussies found themselves finishing in seventh place - missing the final for the first time this season.

The fleet's youngest driver Sebastian Schneiter of the Switzerland SailGP Team received the brunt of Slingsby's accusations - with the team sitting in last place after seven events.

Schneiter said: "Honestly it was pretty painful to watch that documentary, for sure we don't want to be in that position, we want to be able to challenge Tom and all the top teams much more than we are right now. It's maybe hard to read my emotions but we're working really hard on it and we're not being complacent and we're really hungry. It's extra motivation for this weekend and we can thank Tom for that."

One positive for Schneiter and the Swiss team came with the announcement that his team had won the second key focus area 'accelerating inclusion' of SailGP's Podium for the Planet, the Impact League.

The guest panel of judges - consisting of sustainability and sport experts - voted the Swiss team as winner due to its commitment and passion to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Alongside its Purpose Partner, WE Foundation, the team hosted the WE Foundation SailGP OneSport Inclusive Regatta featuring 10 SailGP athletes and 10 inclusive sailors to champion equal opportunities and increase disability awareness and inclusivity. The concept focused on utilizing each other's strengths regardless of ability and demonstrating what's possible by leveling the playing field so everyone can enjoy racing. OneSport can be replicated and used as a blueprint by clubs globally.

Schneiter said: "It's really good for our team - when the season started, it was one of our goals to win the Impact League and we made a lot of progress on that aspect. We are trying to use SailGP as a platform to increase awareness of our cause and show that sports are about equal opportunities. As well in Dubai, we had the first all-female crew on the F50 and Emirates Great Britain followed up in Abu Dhabi. It's great because the women deserve the opportunity and they need the time just like we do."

A new face driving New Zealand's 'Amokura' and a newly-crowned leader of the Impact League won't be the only shake-up fans will see over the course of this weekend. For those tuning in from any of the 212 territories that SailGP is broadcast in, viewers will witness a refreshed look and feel to the global sporting league's broadcast production, with a new, dynamic opening sequence and new-look LiveLineFX augmented reality graphics.

LiveLineFX paints a picture on viewers screens by providing critical race elements to help with understanding the high-adrenaline racing for both sailors and non-sailors alike. The refreshed look and feel will be on display in the homes of viewers across the globe this weekend. As part of the roll out of this updated industry leading technology - additional educational features will be presented in the broadcast including turn maneuvers, start line analysis, athlete personalities and more. This is the first phase with further updates to come over the remainder of the global sporting league's Season 4 and beyond.

The KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney gets under way at 4 p.m. local time tomorrow, February 24, and can be seen on Fox Sports, Kayo Freebies and the recently announced new free-to-air partnership with SBS (Special Broadcasting Service). For details on how to watch around the globe visit www.SailGP.com/watch. For fans in Sydney, limited tickets are still available to have a seat in the middle of the action. Head to www.SailGP.com/Sydney for more information and to secure a ticket.

KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney //

Day One Racing: Saturday, February 24, 4.00 p.m. - 5.30 p.m. AEDT
Day Two Racing: Sunday, February 25, 4.00 p.m. - 5.30 p.m. AEDT

SailGP Season 4 Championship Standings (after seven events) //

1 // Australia 56 points
2 // New Zealand 50 points**
3 // United States 43 points
4 // ROCKWOOL Denmark 43 points
5 // Spain 42 points*
6 // Emirates GBR 41 points
7 // France 38 points
8 // Canada 37 points***
9 // Germany 16 points****
10 // Switzerland 14 points*****

*Spain SailGP Team docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía-Cádiz

**New Zealand SailGP Team unable to compete in Taranto due to the structural failure of the team's wingsail at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez

***Canada SailGP Team Docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez

****Germany SailGP Team docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix

*****Switzerland SailGP Team docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council

SailGP Season 4 Impact League Standings //

1 // Switzerland // 328 points
2 // Australia // 303 points
3 // ROCKWOOL Denmark // 288 points
4 // New Zealand // 284 points
5 // United States // 280 points
6 // Germany // 279 points
7 // Canada // 269 points
8 // Emirates Great Britain // 267 points
9 // France // 265 points
10 // Spain // 237 points

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