The New Zealand SailGP Team helmed by Peter Burling celebrate after winning in Denmark 2022. Photo: PHOTOSPORT
The New Zealand Sail GP Team’s fine form continued with two fleet race wins to top the leaderboard at the end of the opening day of the France Sail Grand Prix.
New Zealand’s two wins – sandwiching a lone victory for Australia – saw them end the day on 27 points, two points clear of the United States in second with the Aussies a further five behind.
The home French team sit just one point off the top-three podium places, aided largely by a second-place finish in the final race of the day in which Quentin Delapierre’s team also set a new SailGP racing speed record of 99.94 km/h.
Great Britain, Spain, Denmark and Canada contest a tightly-packed midfield heading into race day 2, while Switzerland – hit with a four-point penalty due to a collision with the US during practice – prop up the rest of the table on nine points.
New Zealand looked certain to finish behind Australia in second in the opening race, but the Australian’s reaction to a bold manoeuvre by Peter Burling saw the Flying Roo crash down in the water when going over 90 km/h in the final leg to lose all their speed and momentum – allowing New Zealand to overtake them into the winning position.
Burling defended his team’s actions after the race and criticised the conduct of series leader Tom Slingsby after the incident.
“We were overlapped for a very long time and they were closing down to us so we were fully within our rights to do what we were doing. It was exactly the same situation with Canada and they got out of the way. I think as drivers we might need to pitch in for some anger management lessons for Tom, I think it’s out of line, the swear words he was saying afterwards on our race management channel,” Burling said.
The incident damaged Australia’s F50, but swift work by the shore crew meant they were ready for the second race of the day – and Slingsby proved his undeniable quality by driving the Aussies to victory despite the damage.
New Zealand were back on top in the final race of the day, beating record-setters France and the US to victory.
The New Zealand crew now have nine wins from the last 11 races in Plymouth, Copenhagen and Saint-Tropez.
On one of the wildest days seen on a SailGP racecourse, the championship speed record was broken twice in the space of three races.
Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain hit 99.02 km/h in the day’s first race, before the French team led by Quentin Delapierre recorded 99.94 km/h in the last race of the day to set a new all time record for the league.
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