The New Zealand SailGP Team staked its claim for Season 3 Championship favoritism with an impressive display in front of home fans in Christchurch.
Driver Peter Burling delivered a race win and two second place finishes to thrill the sellout crowd and finish the day in first place on the event standings.
New Zealander and Canada driver Phil Robertson enjoyed a return to form on home waters to lead his team to second place after a day that included victory in the day’s final race.
Chasing the all important third place in the overall season standings, Sir Ben Ainslie’s Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team ended the day in third place after a series of consistent performances.
Ainslie’s chief rival for the Season 3 Grand Final placings, France driver Quentin Delapierre, won the day’s first race but faded as the day went on to end up in fourth.
One spot behind sits season leaders Australia, with Tom Slingsby’s F50 suffering a rudder issue and dropped to last place in the day’s third race.
Burling said he felt his team had done the home fans proud as it ended the day with a stranglehold on the event standings.
“It’s been amazing seeing how many people have been coming down here to cheer us on, not just in the ticketed area which had an absolutely amazing atmosphere the whole day, but from every vantage point around Lyttelton Harbour. It’s been amazing to see the support from home fans and it means the world to be able to put on a good show for them today,” said Burling.
Robertson echoed Burling’s comments, saying it was the first time he could clearly hear the shoreline crowd from his F50.
“I was blown away. It’s the first time I’ve raced in New Zealand and there were so many people out. It was obviously nice to win a race, it was a tricky old day. We didn’t really get any time to warm up or even commission our new wing so we were chucked in the deep end and we just hoped that everything worked and it seemed to go alright. We slowly improved during the day and came away with the win,” Robertson said.
Ainslie and Burling battled throughout the day, with a close call between their F50s in the third race showing the tightness of the racecourse.
“It was close racing. There was plenty of action between the boats and at those speeds you’ve got to really trust yourself, trust your team that you can pull off those maneuvers but for us it was just so exciting and amazing racing. I hope it was the same for the people watching on the shore and the TV,” Ainslie said.
Elsewhere Denmark and the United States saw their Grand Final chances dim with disappointing days out; Nicolai Sehested’s Denmark SailGP Team finished the day in eighth and Jimmy Spithill and the United States find themselves in sixth place.
Spain’s rebuilding under new driver Diego Botin continued as it ended the day in last place, while Sebastien Schneiter’s Swiss team battled its way to seventh place after day one despite bringing new talent Glenn Ashby onboard.
Day two of racing starts at 3pm.
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz