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Zhik 2024 March - LEADERBOARD

SailGP Sydney: Five teams set to contest three Final spots

by Richard Gladwell, 24 Feb 01:11 PST
Germany SailGP Team save a capsize as they sail past a course marker alongside France SailGP Team on Race Day 1 of the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney - February 24, 2024 © Felix Diemer/SailGP

Two points separate the top three teams after a drama packed first day of SailGP Sydney. In fact, just five points separate the top five teams - promising some keen competition on the final day of sailing.

There is a big seven point gap back to the second division, and the chances of one of that group making the three boat final are slim indeed.

There has to be a crew on the top of the leaderboard, and after Day 1 of SailGP Sydney, it was the Danish crew skippered by Nicolai Sehested that occupied the #1 after the application of the tiebreaking process.

Sehested and friends are on the same 26points after three races as the Tom Slingsby skippered Australian team, which has won the last three SailGP world championship titles. In third overall is the now Nathan Outteridge skippered NZ entry, on 24pts, just two points adrift of the top two overall.

The fourth placed French team - and the only one run as an extension of their America's Cup effort - came very close to a spectacular collision in Race 2 in an incident involving the German team as both lined up to round Mark 5, in Race 2.

The Germans came from around the back of Shark Island, aiming at the windward mark on starboard and set to cross three port tackers coming from the other side of Shark Island. Pierre Delapierre took on the challenge, and tacked onto starboard keeping clear of Erik Heil (GER) and was first into the three boat length zone, and claim rounding rights on the mark.

The German boat, which was closing fast, and had just become the give way boat. As such they were required to stay clear of both the French team and the mark. Heil looked to have a sniff at passing to windward, then had a look at squeezing through to leeward of the French, but realised that gap had closed, and instead bore off at high speed, avoiding the fourth placed French - but came close to having a high speed collision with the mark.

Next the Germans elected to luff at high speed, while still having to hold their course to allow the French to pass ahead, without taking any avoiding action. The Germans came close to a spectacular capsize, and dropping from fifth to eighth in the now-nine boat fleet.

The Kiwis, sailing with a new skipper, Nathan Outteridge, and little training as as a crew, were up and down the fleet, but showed resilience on several occasions, pull up from the peloton and score some very countable places.

The Canadian team had hydraulic issues during Race 1, and were unable to finish that race or start in the next two - scoring minimum points in each race.

Consistency was the determining factor on Day 1. Of the top three boats overall, scored across nine races, only two of those nine were outside the top three in each race. Denmark recorded 2,3,2 for 26pts; Australia recorded 1,2,4 for 26pts; and New Zealand recorded 3,5,1 placings for 24pts.

While consistency might have been the order of the day, the racing was no procession. USA and Australia looked to have Race 1 under control going into Leg 3, but the US team, sailing in just their third

The course laid around Shark Island on Sydney harbour is notorious amongst 18fter sailors for the marked vagaries of the breeze in both pressure and direction.

The sailors woes were compounded, when it was deemed that the F50 wingsailed foiling catamarans would be fitted with their All Purpose foils - meaning that the boats would be fast in a straight line, with some gust assistance, but hard to handle if the windstrength dropped unexpectedly during the racing.

That proved to be the case on Sydney Harbour, today.

Two more Qualifying races will be held on Sunday, with the top three progressing to a three-boat, winner takes all, one race, sudden death, Final.

Winds are forecast to swing to the east at a strength of 7-8kts at race time - mid-afternoon - local time.

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