SailGP season moves to Christchurch this weekend for the New Zealand Sail Grand Prix. All nine teams will be on the water, rounding out a massive repair response following the damage sustained at the conclusion of day one at last month’e Sydney event. This weekend marks the first time SailGP has been to New Zealand, and with practice racing cancelled on Friday due to high winds forecast, the teams enter racing on day one without the usual form guide.
With full points awarded for Sydney despite the shortened racing schedule, places for the Season 3 final remain in open. While Australia looks to have cemented their place with a current 12 point lead at the top of the table, New Zealand, France, Great Britain, Denmark and USA are all mathematical chances of taking the other two places – meaning there is bound to be plenty of tight racing with every point making a difference.
“We’re super excited to be back on Amokura this weekend. We haven’t had the chance yet to right that first day in Sydney, but we’re excited to get that opportunity here now. We’re here to win our home event.”
Peter Burling, New Zealand SailGP Team
New Zealand will be looking to capitalise on the home-town advantage as they return to their own F50, after it was repaired following being struck by lightning a the conclusion of the Singapore event in January. The team will be looking to firm up their second place on the leaderboard.
Emirates Team GBR Driver Ben Ainslie continued the theme of recent events, highlighting the increase standard and intensity across the entire fleet. Ainslie’s team currently faces a two point deficit to France for the last spot in the final and is looking for a big result in New Zealand.
“It’s still a long way to go. We are only two events and we’re in the final, but still a lot can happen. For sure, you’re keeping an eye out for the other teams around you but probably it’s a bit early to be marking any particular team out.”
Sir Ben Ainslie, Emitrates Team GBR SailGP Team
Team USA placed themselves back in contention with a second place result in Sydney. Driver Jimmy Spithill was cautious about looking too far ahead, but highlighted the team’s belief that they can be in the final in San Francisco.
“There’s a lot of points still available just with the amount of racing left in the season, but with this penalty system any time there’s damage or a collision there’s also a lot of points that can be lost and things can change. At the end of the day I think if you think to far ahead and to the finish line it’s almost a bit of a waste of energy, you’ve got to focus it one race at a time. That’s the situation we’re in,
“We’re one of the few teams who have shown we can win this season. We’ve had a few good results and we’ve had some bad ones too. We just want to string together some more consistent races, and San Francisco is a big one for us. We’ll see what can happen, things can change real quick in SailGP.”
Jimmy Spithill, USA SailGP Team
For fifth placed Denmark the weekend is about ensuring a solid result and minimising risk. Driver Nicolai Sehested is confident in the team and its progress, and emphasised of the damage a poor result can have at this stage of the season.
“One of our challenges is we can have some good results, but we can also have a bad weekend where we lose a lot of points. We’ve got to eliminate that. It’s funny how the good ones are always the lucky ones, so we just need to be better and I think a bit of luck will go our way,
“We’re six points off with plenty of points there to catch up so I’m not too concerned about it being over yet, there’s plenty of racing left. We don’t need a win here but we definitely can’t have a bad one. We need a top three to stay in the hunt. We need a good one but more than ever we don’t need a bad one.”
Nicolai Sehested, Denmark SailGP Team
For the Australian team, much has been made of who they will look to aid and who to hamper as they push to hold on to top spot. Driver Tom Slingsby emphasised that while tactics are going to come in to play, his team can still miss out on the finals if they incur penalties.
“We’re going to have a talk about who we might want to help in to the final, who we might want to take out of the final. It’s all part of the game, but for sure the Kiwi’s are probably our biggest rival. They’ve won three events this year, they’ve beaten us in final races multiple times. I think if Pete was in the same position as we are he would be going after us probably, but we’ve got to see what we decide.”
Tom Slingsby, Australia SailGP Team
The forecast for the weekend is for good racing conditions. With all teams with so much to race for, it is expected to be tight and for battles to ensue. Day one of racing is set for a forecast 9-12 knots of breeze, gusting up to 16 knots from the southwest.
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