As the KPMG Australia SailGP Sydney gets set to get underway on Sydney Harbour this weekend the Drivers’ Press Conference brought out one common theme – this season is far from decided and results here matter for every team. Even for Tom Slingsby and the Australia SailGP Team, who are nine points ahead on top of the leaderboard leading into this event.
“I don’t think we’re locked in yet. We’ve seen it multiple times over the past few years collisions happen, and if you’re deemed to be in the wrong…then you lose season points, and there’s some big points there. For sure if we have a good result here then we’re pretty much mathematically locked in, but I’m just focussed on this event and trying to have a good one here.”
Tom Slingsby, Australia SailGP Team
Sydney’s universal popularity amongst the teams, combined with the breezier conditions will effectively reset the playing field for the final three events of the season.
The high speeds, tight racetrack and Sydney’s sizeable spectator fleet lining the boundaries will have all the drivers pushing the limits and each other. Phil Robertson, Canada SailGP Team, and Nicolai Sehested, Denmark SailGP Team, both stressed the importance of staying right on the edge.
“You can’t back off, even though its a small course and it’s windy and everyone comes together at the reach mark you still have to push, and not think about what could happen if something goes wrong, because if you think of that you’re in the wrong game”.
Nicolai Sehested, Denmark SailGP Team
The value of consistent results was another theme from all the drivers, with Phil Robertson highlighting the importance of racing in the pack.
“It’s really difficult to race when you’re in the pack. The teams who do that well are finishing up on the leaderboard. We know we can win races, we’ve won a lot but it’s really those seconds, thirds and fourths that you’ve really got to focus on and nailing them when you’re in those positions.
Phil Robertson, Canada SailGP Team
But regardless of form, all are saying that this race track is going to be exceptionally challenging. Team USA were dealt a blow on Thursday with Erika Reineke suffering a broken leg. Australia’s Lucy Copeland will be filling in, and Driver Jimmy Spithill was extremely positive about her fitting in on board.
“We’ve had a fair bit of rotation, which hasn’t been ideal for the team this year. Unfortunately we had an incident yesterday where Erika broke her leg during training, it was a really big blow for the team, she’s I think one of the best sailors in the US right now.
“Thanks to the Aussies we have Lucy Copeland who’ll be filling in and in typical Aussie fashion she started ripping into us. I think her first line was ‘I’m here to help you guys win races again’. I says a lot for the women’s pathway program that you can have an athlete we’ve never worked with jump on and it’s just seamless, you wouldn’t know.”
Jimmy Spithill, USA SailGP Team
Friday’s practice racing had the F50s with their small wings and foil setup, taking a step down from Thursday’s practice session. The day started with lighter breeze building into conditions similar to those predicted for the first day of racing, the day was an excellent preview of what is to come.
Peter Burling and the New Zealand SailGP Team took the first race, leading Emirates Team GBR who fought back from sixth at the first mark to take second.
Overall it was a strong day for the Kiwis, who are looking to back up their come-from-behind win at the last event in Singapore. Earlier, Peter Burling, Driver New Zealand SailGP Team, drew attention to the situation at home and the team’s focus this weekend, as well as the challenge of racing on a different boat after the New Zealand F50 was struck by lightening in Singapore.
“It’s a surreal weekend with everything happening at home. Some of the stories we’re hearing, from East Cape to Hawks Bay. It makes you incredibly proud to be a New Zealander… We feel incredibly lucky to be here. This weekend the team will be wearing an arm band out of respect for all that’s going on back home.
“It (Singapore) was really a special moment for us, being able to come back from being on the back foot to put together a complete result and take out the win. It shows the resilience we’re starting to build up within the team.
“We feel like we’re in the same position this weekend. Having a different boat we have to make sure we’re comfortable with that. It was the first time we sailed it yesterday, and it was definitely a dynamic day. It was hard to get a good feel for
the boat, but it was similar enough and we’re really just appreciative of the Tech Team for getting us out there”.
Peter Burling, NZL SailGP Team
Starting was key, as ever in SailGP, but today proved there are opportunities to pass, with Emirates Great Britain, USA and Denmark all making significant gains at various points.
It was the teams rated as the high wind specialists who remain the ones to watch following practice. Australia, New Zealand and Emirates Great Britain will have targets on their backs tomorrow, with the stage set for action.
Day one of racing is set for action with a 12-15 knots of breeze forecast, gusting into the 20 knot range, small wings and foils on the F50s.
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.