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SailGP New Zealand Preview

The SailGP F50 catamaran fleet in action during a practice session ahead of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch, New Zealand. Friday 22nd March 2024. Photo: Ricardo Pinto for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

EPIC! 22,000 fans are expected to visit Lyttelton Harbour over the course of this weekend as SailGP returns for its second event in Christchurch. 

France were a standout in the practice racing yesterday, but with completely different conditions today it is going to come down to who can read the race course best. Teams will be racing with the largest, 24m, wing format and the light-air foil setup.

In the wake of Tom Slingsby’s Australia SailGP Team’s thrilling last-minute victory on home waters at the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney last month, Peter Burling is back with his team New Zealand with a new team name Black Foils and hopeful to also take a home victory. 

Burling said: “We’re always going for the win and the hat trick, it’s going to be an awesome weekend and it’s looking to be a step up on the breeze from last season. 

“The amount of support we’ve been getting from home since the beginning of SailGP has been incredible. Kiwis love getting behind us and supporting – seeing the fan base grow and grow – the vibe around town is amazing already.”

Last year another fellow Kiwi, Canada SailGP Team’s Phil Robertson, stole the show by winning the inaugural Christchurch event last season, but with Burling back in the driver’s seat – the competition is set to be fierce. 

Robertson said: “I’m happy to do it again – that’s the plan. I’m a Kiwi as well and it’s awesome to race at home in front of all the fans, we’ve got massive support – it’s epic. In my professional career I’ve raced here once before and that was last season. The conditions look epic and we’re here to defend the title.” 

Another team keen to upset the Kiwi’s on home soil is Australia, the overall season leaders. Motivated by an age-old rivalry between the two nations, Slingsby admitted this provided added motivation.

Slingsby said: “As an Aussie sportsman, it doesn’t matter what sport it is, you want to come to New Zealand and beat the Kiwis on their home turf. It’s one of those bucket list items you want to do. Winning in New Zealand over a top Kiwi team is hard to do. It’s a mountain to climb but we love motivation like that.”

Australia SailGP Team helmed by Tom Slingsby leads Canada SailGP Team helmed by Phil Robertson, New Zealand SailGP Team helmed by Peter Burling and ROCKWOOL Denmark SailGP Team helmed by Nicolai Sehested ahead of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch, New Zealand. Friday 22nd March 2024. Photo: Brett Phibbs for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

Credit: Brett Phipps for SailGP

As the ten national teams draw closer to the SailGP Season 4 Grand Final in San Francisco, set for July 13-14, all teams are determined to bring their A-game as tension climbs across the fleet to show which team has got what it takes to qualify for the Grand Final –  a winner-take-all three boat race with $2 million on the line. 

Outteridge, who has played an important role throughout the season – as step-in driver for New Zealand and ROCKWOOL Denmark as well as assisting with coaching the first-ever all female training session in Dubai hosted by the Switzerland SailGP Team – will now step in as full-time driver for the Swiss team. 

Outteridge said: “What we’re looking for is just a steep learning curve, I’ve got a lot of experience and I’m trying to share that knowledge to build the team. Seb [Schneiter] has had a tough mountain to climb like all the new teams to catch up that time. Over the course of the next few events the goal is just to chip away – we’re not expecting miracles – but if we can see progression and an improvement and get some top threes in races – that’s the ultimate goal and a podium would be great this season.”

Ahead of the weekend, SailGP partnered with Women Who Sail NZ – a group which aims to promote the growth of women’s sailing and foster a connected women’s sailing community – Yachting New Zealand, and ChristchurchNZ to deliver its Breaking Boundaries event. The evening comprised a number of SailGP’s Women’s Pathway athletes including New Zealand’s Liv Mackay, Spain’s Nicole Van der Velden, Australia’s Nina Curtis, and ROCKWOOL Denmark’s Anne Marie-Rindom. The panel discussed key topics around women in sport, challenges faced, and local initiatives and was attended by the local community, stakeholders and media.

New Zealand SailGP Team strategist Liv Mackay said: “Sailing is extremely male dominated at the professional level. The top of our sport is all men, so without the Women’s Pathway program things won’t change. But the exciting thing is that I do think it will be within the next year that we see a female driver in the league. We just need that time and opportunity which is what the program is giving us!”

On racing at her home event, Mackay added: “There was something about racing in Christchurch last year that was insane. I couldn’t be more grateful for the support at home and can’t wait to race in front of the home crowd this weekend.”

The ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch gets underway today, Saturday March 23, with live racing between 3-4.30pm local time today and Sunday March 24. 

SAILGP SEASON 4 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after eight events) //

 

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