A spectacular crash in the pre-start of race 3 was the big topic of conversation on the first day of the SailGP regatta in Sydney Harbor on Friday – New Zealand failed in three largely disappointing races.
There were high hopes that Peter Burling’s magical touch could catapult the Kiwis into the bill closest to a home regatta in this second full season of SailGP racing. They certainly require something special in the final two qualifying events, with San Francisco following in March before the US $ 1.48 million grand final, with the Kiwis finishing fifth overall.
However, there was a notable lack of fire from the New Zealand boat at the three races in Sydney on Friday.
It was a continuation of the frustrating lack of boat speed and racing sharpness of the Kiwi outfit through this campaign in these highly technical 50 foot foiling catamarans. New Zealand has not had a podium race all year and has only won two fleet races.
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The New Zealanders showed their best performance first being in the middle of the action for most of the race in the top half of the fleet, but they lost when it really rumbled to drop to fifth. You failed to genuinely threaten the leaders on the remaining two hitouts.
The opening day was marred by a spectacular pre-start crash of Race 3 in which Ben Ainslies Great Britain crashed into Nathan Outteridge’s Japan boat, the Japanese catamaran caused great damage and both of them were unable to start the race.
Both had been in good shape in the previous races, the British finished second and fourth, and Japan freaked out to take victory in race two.
Ainslie admitted he hadn’t even seen the Japanese boat take off for the final race of the day, focusing on the Americans. “I had no idea they were there. It was definitely our fault, ”he said after the race.
Outteridge was gutted and said the damage to his boat would make it difficult for them to compete on the second day of racing on Saturday. He called it “reckless sailing” by the British. “I can’t imagine sailing tomorrow. It definitely ruined our boat and any chance of winning this event, ”he added.
The Spaniard, led by Phil Robertson, was the most impressive of the three races with a first, second and third, scoring 21 points. They led the series after two rounds but had performed poorly since then, finishing in 6th place after Sydney, one point behind New Zealand.
The leading Aussies in the series and the second-placed Americans were the second-best, both of which achieved two top-three placements in their three appearances. Tom Slingsby’s home boat won the last race – except for six boats – impressively and did well to get through in a tight haggle for third place in the opening salvo.
The Americans, led by Jimmy Spithill, recovered from a disappointing sixth in race one well enough to finish third and second in the next two races to really hold their own in the hunt. “I’ve had a tough day. In all of these races I struggled to get off the start line, ”said Spithill.
Points after 3 races from SailGP Sydney: Spain 21, Australia, 16, USA 16, Denmark 14, Great Britain 12, Japan 10, New Zealand 9, France 7.