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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Sydney SailGP: Kiwis third after a wet and wild first day

by Natalie Fortier 24 Feb 19:38 PST 24-25 February 2024
New Zealand SailGP Team helmed by interim driver Nathan Outteridge sails in front of USA SailGP Team on Race Day 1 of the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney, © Bob Martin/SailGP

Familiar rivals Australia and New Zealand remain neck and neck after Day 1 in Sydney SailGP - in second and third, respectively. But consistency was the name of the game, with Rockwool Denmark leading the fleet after three podium finishes.

The event marks a long-awaited return to big breeze after a stint of light-air events in Europe and the Middle East. Substitute driver Nathan Outteridge was in his element with the fast and furious racing, commenting: “Where else would you rather be?”

In Race 1, New Zealand clawed their way back from a challenging downwind leg, battling for podium positions with Denmark, Spain and France. Australia proved right at home on Sydney Harbour, taking the win in front of cheering fans on ‘Genesis’ (Shark) Island.

Race 2 was bookended with drama - with Canada ruled out at the start due to technical issues onboard, and Germany nearly capsizing after missing the mark at the penultimate gate. Spain and Australia finished in first and second respectively, followed by Denmark (third), France (fourth) and New Zealand in fifth.

Outteridge said: “There was a fair bit of drama out there and fortunately it had nothing to do with us. We kept it pretty simple - managed to sail the boat pretty well and get away with a few good races.”

In the third and final fleet race of the day, Outteridge showed why he’s nicknamed, ‘the wind whisperer’ splitting the course around Shark Island to grow a significant lead and steer the Kiwis to victory cleanly in front of Denmark (second) and France (third).

Commenting on the need to navigate such a significant landmark, Outteridge said: “We had our ups and downs today - you really need to be in the puff to pull off the foiling tacks and there’s a little island in the middle of the course too which adds to it.”

New Zealand strategist Liv Mackay likened negotiating Shark Island to rolling the dice - “A few times we managed to see some pressure on the other side of the island and were able to make a pretty low-risk decision that paid off. And a few times, we found ourselves on the wrong side of things too,” Mackay said.

With lighter air and a likely configuration change on the forecast, The KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney returns tomorrow, Sunday 24 February 2024, with live racing on ThreeNow at 6pm NZT.

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