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North Sails Performance 2023 - LEADERBOARD

Pressure mounts as all ten teams prepare for SailGP's historic return to Lyttelton Harbour

by SailGP 21 Mar 23:48 PDT 23-24 March 2024
The fleet led by Australia SailGP Team in action during a practice session ahead of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch, New Zealand © Chloe Knott for SailGP

Following a spectacular inaugural event in 2023, this year's ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch is expected to make history as the world's largest-ever ticketed sailing event - with a staggering 22,000 attendees expected to visit Lyttelton Harbour over the course of this weekend, March 23-24.

In the wake of Tom Slingsby's Australia SailGP Team's thrilling last-minute victory on home waters at the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney last month, Peter Burling's New Zealand team is primed for a hopeful triumphant return on home shores. The team recently announced its new bold identity, rebranding as the Black Foils - inspired by New Zealand's sporting excellence and signifies a bold new chapter for the team ahead of its long-awaited home event.

Following two consecutive victories prior to Slingsby's triumph in Sydney, Burling rejoins the New Zealand team after missing the Sydney event - leaving the fate of the Black Foils in the hands of the well-known step-in driver Nathan Outteridge - who secured the team a spot in the final but ultimately placed third.

Burling - who led his team to back-to-back wins in Dubai and Abu Dhabi - is determined to harness that winning momentum and will be hoping a roaring home crowd and a bold new identity will fuel a successful campaign this weekend on Whakaraupo, Lyttelton Harbour.

Burling said: "We're always going for the win and the hat trick, it's going to be an awesome weekend and it's looking to be a step up on the breeze from last season.

"The amount of support we've been getting from home since the beginning of SailGP has been incredible. Kiwis love getting behind us and supporting - seeing the fan base grow and grow - the vibe around town is amazing already."

Last year another fellow Kiwi, Canada SailGP Team's Phil Robertson, stole the show by winning the inaugural Christchurch event, but with Burling back in the driver's seat - the competition is set to be fierce.

Robertson said: "I'm happy to do it again - that's the plan. I'm a Kiwi as well and it's awesome to race at home in front of all the fans, we've got massive support - it's epic. In my professional career I've raced here once before and that was last season. The conditions look epic and we're here to defend the title."

Another team keen to upset the Kiwi's on home soil is Australia, the overall season leaders. Motivated by an age-old rivalry between the two nations, Slingsby admitted this provided added motivation.

Slingsby said: "As an Aussie sportsman, it doesn't matter what sport it is, you want to come to New Zealand and beat the Kiwis on their home turf. It's one of those bucket list items you want to do. Winning in New Zealand over a top Kiwi team is hard to do. It's a mountain to climb but we love motivation like that."

As the ten national teams draw closer to the SailGP Season 4 Grand Final in San Francisco, set for July 13-14, all teams are determined to bring their A-game as tension climbs across the fleet to show which team has got what it takes to qualify for the Grand Final - a winner-take-all three boat race with $2 million on the line.

Outteridge, who has played an important role throughout the season - as step-in driver for New Zealand and ROCKWOOL Denmark as well as assisting with coaching the first-ever all female training session in Dubai hosted by the Switzerland SailGP Team - will now step in as full-time driver for the Swiss team. You can watch the full behind-the-scenes story of Outteridge's progress in SailGP's latest Racing on the Edge episode.

Outteridge said: "What we're looking for is just a steep learning curve, I've got a lot of experience and I'm trying to share that knowledge to build the team. Seb [Schneiter] has had a tough mountain to climb like all the new teams to catch up that time. Over the course of the next few events the goal is just to chip away - we're not expecting miracles - but if we can see progression and an improvement and get some top threes in races - that's the ultimate goal and a podium would be great this season."

Ahead of the weekend, SailGP partnered with Women Who Sail NZ - a group which aims to promote the growth of women's sailing and foster a connected women's sailing community - Yachting New Zealand, and ChristchurchNZ to deliver its Breaking Boundaries event. The evening comprised a number of SailGP's Women's Pathway athletes including New Zealand's Liv Mackay, Spain's Nicole Van der Velden, Australia's Nina Curtis, and ROCKWOOL Denmark's Anne Marie-Rindom. The panel discussed key topics around women in sport, challenges faced, and local initiatives and was attended by the local community, stakeholders and media.

New Zealand SailGP Team strategist Liv Mackay said: "Sailing is extremely male dominated at the professional level. The top of our sport is all men, so without the Women's Pathway program things won't change. But the exciting thing is that I do think it will be within the next year that we see a female driver in the league. We just need that time and opportunity which is what the program is giving us!"

On racing at her home event, Mackay added: "There was something about racing in Christchurch last year that was insane. I couldn't be more grateful for the support at home and can't wait to race in front of the home crowd this weekend."

This year's ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix will see the return of popular fan experiences including the already-sold out Platinum Lawn, premium food and beverage offerings, a Heineken bar and more. For the first time ever in New Zealand, live entertainment will be hosted in the Race Stadium including the Kiwi singer-songwriting legend Sir Dave Dobbyn on Saturday and the multi-award-winning drum and bass icons Shapeshifter on Sunday - immediately following racing.

The ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch gets under way tomorrow, Saturday March 23, with live racing between 3-4.30pm on both days. Fans can catch all the action live on Three (linear) plus live and on-demand on ThreeNow. For details on how to watch around the globe visit SailGP.com/Watch. In regions that allow, you can watch the racing on the Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com homepages.

For fans in Christchurch, limited tickets are still available to have a seat in the heart of the action. Head to SailGP.com/Christchurch for more information and to secure a final remaining ticket.

ITM NEW ZEALAND SAIL GRAND PRIX | CHRISTCHURCH //

Day One Racing: Saturday, March 23, 3.00 p.m. - 4.30 p.m. NZDT
Day Two Racing: Sunday, March 24, 3.00 p.m. - 4.30 p.m. NZDT

SAILGP SEASON 4 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after eight events) //

1 // Australia 66 points
2 // New Zealand 58 points**
3 // ROCKWOOL Denmark 52 points
4 // Spain 48 points*
5 // France 45 points
6 // Emirates GBR 45 points
7 // United States 45 points
8 // Canada 38 points***
9 // Germany 21 points****
10 // Switzerland 17 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 // 347 points
2 // Australia // 323 points
3 // ROCKWOOL Denmark // 308 points
4 // New Zealand // 304 points
5 // Germany // 299 points
6 // United States // 298 points
7 // Canada // 289 points
8 // Emirates Great Britain // 286 points
9 // France // 285 points
10 // Spain // 256 points

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