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SailGP Christchurch: Black Foils win twice, but are Australians out for Season 4?

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 23 Mar 20:11 PDT
New Zealand SailGP Team helmed by Peter Burling cross the finish line on the final race and win on Race Day 2 ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch, March 24, 2024 © Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

While SailGP Christchurch failed to deliver on the first scheduled day of racing, Kiwi fans left the Lyttelton Harbour venue thrilled with having seen some great sailing action, topped off with an end-to-end win for Peter Burling and the Black Foils.

In the early stages of Race 3, the Kiwis looked to be out of the Final, with France, Canada, and Spain booked with a Final spot at 25 points a piece.

The French team took off, leaving the rest of the racing fleet to sort out the minor placings, and Canada, Spain, and New Zealand were in that order after rounding Mark 2 and heading into Leg 3. The placings remained unchanged at Mark 4, and the Black Foils situation looked increasingly desperate.

The Kiwis split and headed for the crowd side of the course, leaving Spain and Canada to their duel on the opposite side, sailing at 38kts

The pendulum began to swing the Kiwis' way soon after the teams gybed, and Spain, now in second place, moved up to the top of the leaderboard, with the Kiwis equal with Canada in third. The three crossed on the next beat, with the Kiwis taking a bite out of the other lead. On the next boundary tack, Burling and friends closed out the game, moving into third place, with starboard rights ahead of Spain and securing a Final place if they could hang onto their gains.

Spain dropped fourth on the leaderboard as the Kiwis rounded the final mark in second place. This put the Kiwis on top of the event points table—to the jubilation of their fans seated just metres away from the finish line atop the seawall.

In the Final, the Black Foils started to leeward of Canada and France, with the Kiwis leading at the first mark and never headed. They cemented their Finals win with a big gain on Leg 4, stretching out to a 100-metre lead over France, leading by 9 seconds at the finish with Canada 50 seconds back.

Australia out of Season 4?

The series was over for the Overall Championship leaders, Australia, after an incident on the first rounding mark. Tom Slingsby was caught by two competitors ahead of him at the rounding, coming off the boundary with some degree of rights. Australia took avoiding action but ran over the top of a remote-controlled mark that was not being used for that part of the race.

The errant mark ran between the hulls of the Australian F50, capsizing and damaging the F50, putting the series leaders out of the rest of the day's racing. Denmark was penalised 8 points under RRS14 (right-of-way boat not keeping clear when they had the opportunity) for their part in a pre-start incident.

After the race, Slingsby cast doubt on Australia’s chances of racing at the next event in Bermuda, May 4-5, due to the ‘extensive’ damage sustained in the incident.

“The whole front beam has broken and they take a 3-4 months to build one of those and this one is a complete write off,” he told SailGP.com. “It will be a matter of whether there is a spare one in stock whether we’ll be racing in Bermuda.”

It is not certain where the repair will be effected. Last year SailGP Technologies announced it was relocating from Warkworth, NZ to Southampton, UK. If a NZ build facility were available, as well as a spare cross beam, then a repair would be relatively straightforward. Otherwise the Australians, who have won all three Grand Finals sailed to date, are gone for the next event in Bermuda, and possibly the season.

Control was always going to be an issue in the racing following the decision to fit the fleet of F50 foiling wingsailed catamarans, with high lift light weather foils, which provided a real test of boat handling for the flight controllers in the 16kt breeze, which prevailed for the Final race.

Had the smaller, lower drag All-Purpose foils been fitted, speeds would have been even higher than the 26kts top end sailing speed on the first upwind leg, and the 46kts clocked up by the Black Foils in the last metres of the Final.

New Zealand got off to a fast start, winning Race 1 from France and Spain. Canada emphatically won Race 2 from Spain, Great Britain, and New Zealand. The three teams in the Final, along with Canada, dominated the top places in the four races sailed.

The thrilling action did assuage some of the bitter taste of the circumstances of Day 1's debacle, coupled with the port authority's refusal to allow additional races on Day 2. But organisers were told they could only race in the original 90-minute window.

Before the start of the racing, SailGP CEO Russell Coutts gave a stinging riposte aimed at the groups who control Lyttelton Harbour, and it seems very unlikely that SailGP will return. It would also seem that New Zealand as a stopover is at risk after SailGP was not able to negotiate an Auckland venue and for similar but different reasons as to why the 2024 America's Cup is not being staged in the City of Sails.

Long penalty list

Several penalties were issued by the umpiring team, one of which is subject to review.

Australia received a 12 Event point penalty for causing serious damage after hitting a finish line mark that could have been reasonably avoided. The 12 Event points led to an eight Season point penalty in line with SailGP contact and damage policies. The Australian team has lodged a penalty points review request that will be addressed by the umpires this week, which could change the number of points given.

Denmark was penalised eight Event points for a Race 1 pre-start incident involving Canada and the USA in which damage occurred. The Umpires ruled that Denmark broke RRS 14 by not avoiding a collision when it was reasonably possible.

The eight Event points penalty given to Denmark equates to a four Season point penalty in line with SailGP's contact and damage policies.

Provisionally, the Black Foils now lead the overall Season points for Australia - subject to Umpire review and determination.

How to watch:

Fan can watch the Super Sunday on replay on SailGP YouTube channel at any time.

ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch

1 - New Zealand
2 - France
3 - Canada
4 - Spain
5 - Germany
6 - Switzerland
7 - Emirates GBR*
8 - United States
9 - Rockwool Denmark*
10 - Australia*

Event penalties from SailGP Lyttelton

  • Emirates Great Britain penalized eight points for making contact with Switzerland SailGP Team during practice racing
  • Australia SailGP Team penalized 12 points for making contact causing boat damage with racecourse mark during Fleet Race 1. Review in process.
  • Rockwool Denmark penalized eight points for making contact with Canada SailGP Team during Fleet Race 1

SailGP Season 4 Overall Leaderboard (after 9 of 13 events)
1 - New Zealand - 68
2 - Australia - 59
3 - Spain - 55
4 - France - 54
5 - Rockwell Denmark - 50
6 - USA - 48
7 - Canada - 46
8 - Emirates GBR - 45
9 - Germany - 27
10 - Switzerland - 22

Season penalties:

  • Australia SailGP Team - docked eight points in Season Championship for 12-point penalty at ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch
  • Canada SailGP Team - docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
  • Emirates Great Britain - docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch
  • Germany SailGP Team - docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix
  • Rockwool Denmark - docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch
  • Spain SailGP Team - docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía - Cádiz
  • Switzerland SailGP Team - docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix

Redress:

  • New Zealand SailGP Team - granted six event points for Rockwool Italy Sail Grand Prix | Taranto as unable to compete due to wing damage suffered at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez

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