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SailGP: Aggressive start pays big dividend for Spain in tense final

by SailGP Media 5 May 12:29 PDT
Spain SailGP Team helmed by Diego Botin alongside New Zealand SailGP Team helmed by Peter Burling on Race Day 1 of the Apex Group Bermuda Sail Grand Prix in Bermuda © Bob Martin for SailGP

Diego Botin’s young Spanish team executed flawless tactical decision-making to trounce season leaders New Zealand and Australia on the iconic waters of Bermuda’s Great Sound.

An aggressive start saw Spain swerve behind the Aussies and Kiwis to pinch perfect start line positioning, with speed, and secure the all-important inside line to Mark 1.

Despite the Kiwis breathing down their necks throughout, the Spanish stayed focused on the racecourse, splitting with Burling’s team at Gate 4 to pick up a 100m lead in the blink of an eye.

The race defining moment however came at Gate 5, when the Spanish executed an expert maneuver to force New Zealand to turn away. This resulted in huge gains for Diego Botin’s team.

Overall Spain executed the fewest maneuvers, sailed the shortest distance and recorded the highest speed of all three teams, as well as a perfect 100% flight time.

Speaking after racing, driver Diego Botin said it was an ‘emotional day’ for the team, which snuck into the Final on the thinnest of margins after a tie-break score with Canada.

“Coming up with the win is just amazing,” he said. “We just need to keep sailing the same way, put the most points on our board that we can and avoid the penalty points - just keep focused on everything we’re doing.”

Strategist Nicole van der Velden added that the victory was even sweeter due to beating Season 4 leaders New Zealand and Australia.

“To be able to fight with them - two of the top teams - and come out on top is an amazing feeling,” she said.

Bermuda marks the second ever event win for the team, which also took the win in Los Angeles earlier this season. Since then, results have been mixed, but the team has remained focused on its ambition of securing a place in San Francisco’s winner-takes-all Grand Final in July.

The refreshed season standings see New Zealand retain its position at the top of the Season 4 leaderboard with 77 points - a clear 10 point lead over Australia in second. Meanwhile Spain’s win sees the team solidify its third place position on the leaderboard with 65 points - a comfortable nine point margin ahead of Rockwool Denmark in fourth.

Elsewhere, it was a difficult weekend for Quentin Delapierre’s France, which finished the weekend in 9th place due to inconsistent fleet race results. Risky starting tactics in the fourth fleet race pre-start saw the French foul Rockwool Demark, resulting in a penalty which pushed them to the back of the fleet.

Switzerland meanwhile, now driven by Nathan Outteridge, came out of the blocks firing when racing got underway - picking up the win in the fourth fleet race - its second fleet race win of Season 4 so far.

Next up, the 10-strong F50 fleet heads to Canada for the first time for the for the Rockwool Canada Sail Grand Prix in Halifax on June 2/3

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