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SailGP: US team moves up Season Points after ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix mayhem

by Laura Muma/US SailGP team 24 Mar 15:18 PDT 23-24 March 2024
USA SailGP Team helmed by Taylor Canfield in action during a practice session ahead of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch,Thursday March 21 © Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

Sunday's racing delivered more than enough action to cement SailGP's tagline as 'the most exciting race on water;' and even experienced racing fans are still digesting what took place at the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix.

The home team New Zealand claimed the win, while the United States SailGP Team finished in eighth place, moving them into sixth place in the overall season standings.

The mayhem started with a three-boat pile up between Denmark, Canada and the United States before the start of Race 1. The American F50 was on the receiving end as the Danes barreled into the Canadians, who then bore down on the U.S. SailGP Team's F50. All boats sustained significant damage of varying degrees but were able to continue racing.

Regarding the altercation, CEO and Strategist Mike Buckley was outspoken about what took place. "The Danish and Canadians both had to know that there were eight other F50's through their wings when they recklessly came ripping down the start box and crashed into us," he said. "We are lucky that no one was seriously injured."

Just moments later at the first turning mark, the Australians had to sacrifice their boat and run over the stationary finish mark, rather than collide with the Canadians. It was a split-second decision by Australian SailGP Team Driver Tom Slingsby to choose athlete safety first and foremost, but the collision caused serious damage to the Australian green and gold boat, finishing their race day before it really began. The imposed boat damage penalty points also knocked them off the overall Season 4 leaderboard throne [note, Australia has requested a penalty point review].

Taylor Canfield, the U.S. SailGP Team driver, put it mildly when he said today's racing was "Really intense. It was epic racing conditions and the crowds were great. Our learning curve is so steep but we are still in the phase of making mistakes, which makes it hard to stay in the front of the pack."

This is just the fourth event together for the team, who is desperate for on-water training time. Between Saturday's racing canceled due to mammals in the area, to poor wind conditions and boat issues, Canfield calculates in total the team has only had four days practicing in foiling conditions.

"Today felt like one of those days where you take three steps forward and two back," said Wing Trimmer Victor Diaz de Leon. "We went out feeling really good at first, and as competitors today's performance is a tough pill to swallow. However, while the results don't reflect it, the team did make a lot of progress today and we'll take today's learnings to improve."

Buckley echoed Diaz de Leon. "On the positive side, Taylor is starting the boat really well and we are leaving New Zealand with our F50 and team in one piece, which many of the other teams are not," he said. "We will keep pushing, learning from the data and improving our maneuvers and communications, especially during the hectic moments around the race track."

While the new American team is digesting Sunday's learnings, the focus is on the final Season 4 push. "North American tour here we come!" said Canfield. "We are looking forward to awesome venues like Bermuda, which is up next. It will be nice to have a short flight from the U.S., and we're expecting the US fans to turn out in force to cheer us on."

How to watch:

U.S. fans 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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