SailGP showed once again there are always twists and turns on day one of the Mubadala SailGP Season 3 Final. After three races a Commonwealth showdown for the final million dollar race is looking likely, with Australia and Emirates Great Britain dominating the day.
The stage was set for action from the outset, with Australia the only certainty for the final race. New Zealand, currently placed second need a result of fifth or higher to secure their spot, with the final place to be decided between Emirates Great Britain and France, with the higher placed team at the end of the five races tomorrow going through.
Breeze for race 1 was a puffy 23km/h, with a 1NM racecourse set at 253, setting up the classic grandstand finish in front of the St Francis Yacht Club. Canada led across the line at the start, but it was the faster moving Swiss, Danish and Australian teams in prime position at mark one.
Australian Driver Tom Slingsby showed he had no intent of laying low into the Sunday’s final race, with an aggressive move tacking on top of the Swiss, consolidating the move to lead around the second mark. Australia opted for the right side of the gate, with Switzerland, Denmark and the USA turning left.
Australia’s tactical call paid off and they extended their lead. Canada and USA both conceded a penalty, tightening the mid-fleet battles. Emirates Great Britain picked the gusty breeze and managed to gap New Zealand, making it Australia from Switzerland then Emirates Great Britain at the fifth mark.
Australia and Emirates Great Britain continued to extend. At the finish it was Australia, Emirates Great Britain, Switzerland at the finish. Crucially New Zealand held on for fourth, and France were in sixth place – a huge early advantage to Great Britain in their head to head battle.
Race two remained with course and conditions the same as race one. Sir Ben Ainslie looked to capitalise on the dominance established over France in the first race in the pre-start, opting for aggressive tactics to hold Quentin Delapierre deep in the start box.
France were eventually able to break free, but Emirates Great Britain made the most of the advantage with a near perfect start. Slingsby paid the price for looking to stay out of the pre-start battles, earning a boundary penalty and being well back in the pack.
The battles continued through the race, with Denmark and Switzerland making life hard for the teams fighting for the last place in the final. Emirates Great Britain though emulated Australia’s effort from the first race, extending their lead to take the win. Australia showed they have fight as well as speed, working their way from eighth place at mark one to third – which would have been second but for a tight cross with Canada seeing the Roo drop off the foils.
Race three brought a repeat from Emirates Great Britain in the pre-start, holding the French out until 30 seconds to go. It was Australia and the USA with the best pace at the gun, but the battle to the first mark saw Canada from Australia, Spain and Denmark, with Great Britain and France at the back of the fleet.
The gusty conditions continued to make tactical calls vital, with teams falling into holes and off the foils on the leg to mark two. Canada managed to recover good boatspeed, despite falling off the foils going left at the second mark.
By the third mark it was again Australia from Emirates Great Britain in first and second, and carrying the positions in to the finish. The two traded top speeds and ride height consistency, showing they are the form boats to beat. New Zealand found good speed to recover from seventh to take third and holding valuable fourth place at the end of the day.
Races four and five on Sunday will be a balance for the top teams of maintaining form, protecting the boat, and keeping out of trouble ahead of the final race. Every team will be looking to their final position in season three – with places from fourth to ninth to be set at the end of race five.
Australia will look to stay out of trouble while maintaining their momentum, in contrast New Zealand will be pushing to ensure they earn their place in the final, arguably the most improved team this year with it all to race for.
It will be France with the most pressure on their shoulders early in the day though, desperately hoping to take back their third place overall and earn their spot in the final.
Head to sailgp.com/watch for more information on how to watch live in your country. We will be posting daily post-racing and you can follow us live at @sailorgirlhq.