New Zealand seal comeback at SailGP’s Singapore debut
A victory at Southeast Asia’s first SailGP event helped Peter Burling’s men edge closer to Tom Slingsby’s Australians in the Season 3 standings as the series heads to Sydney.
New Zealand defied the odds to win the Singapore Sail Grand Prix, cementing Peter Burling’s team as the main threat to Australia as Tom Slingsby’s outfit bid for a third straight season title. New Zealand are now the only team besides Australia to win more than one event this season and just nine points behind the leaders in the standings.
With both days of general admission sold out in Singapore, over 5,000 fans across the weekend packed the shorelines of East Coast Park.
Day two was dominated by three teams, with New Zealand, Denmark and surprise packet Switzerland finishing in the top three of both fleet races. It was a day to remember for the Swiss, as they claimed their first race win to finish fourth in Singapore, agonisingly short of a first final appearance.
Nicolai Sehested’s Denmark raced well to finish second in race three, win race four, and pushed the New Zealand team all the way in the final. A strong first day was enough to see Australia make the final, but its indifferent form from the day two fleet races carried into the final and it finished third.
For Burling, it was a victory to savour, after his team started the event with a penalty for a contact incident with the United States in pre-event training.
“Coming into this weekend on the back of those penalty points and just seeing the way the team came together under a bit of adversity is super pleasing for us as a group. It’s now two from two against the Aussies in finals,” Burling said.
“We’re more than happy to keep chipping away and now looking forward. We want to try to make the top three and then to try to be in our best possible shape going into that final to win the season.”
It was a third event final appearance of the season for Sehested and a first time in second place on the podium after a solid weekend for Denmark, as it stayed in touch with the all-important top three.
“We closed the gap and that’s all we need to do,” Sehested said. “We still have two more events to keep closing the gap. It’s only in San Francisco that counts, so we will just keep chipping away and we don’t mind sitting in fifth until the San Francisco event.”
The Australians now sit 15 points clear of fourth place with just three events remaining and are all but guaranteed a place in the Grand Final. SailGP returns to Sydney Harbour for its next event, the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix on February 18-19.
Slingsby said: “We’re feeling really good; we‘re really happy with how we’re looking on the ladder. It’s going to be amazing going back to Australia. It feels like we can just do our thing and sail and just try to get some decent results. We don’t need to go out there and get first to make the final, so we’re going to go out there, sail free and try to get the win in front of the home crowd.”
Quentin Delapierre’s France dropped out of the top three in the season standings after an eighth-place finish at East Coast Park, while fourth for Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain team in Singapore was enough to see them replace France in the Grand Final positions.
Seventh at this event for the United States leaves them seventh in the championship and driver Jimmy Spithill looking unlikely for a second straight Grand Final appearance, while Canada’s early-season form seems to have evaporated as Phil Robertson’s team sits sixth in the season standings.
Spain’s struggles continued with a last place in Singapore, leaving driver Jordi Xammar only one point above the bottom-placed Swiss on the season three ladder.
SINGAPORE SAIL GRAND PRIX FINAL STANDINGS
1. New Zealand – 8 points*
2. Denmark – 9 points
3. Australia – 8 points
4. Switzerland – 7 points
5. Great Britain – 6 points
6. Canada – 5 points
7. United States – 4 points
8. France – 3 points
9. Spain – 2 points
*New Zealand docked two points in championship standings for contact with United States in pre-race practice
SAILGP SEASON 3 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after eight events)
1. Australia – 68 points
2. New Zealand – 59 points
3. Great Britain – 54 points
4. France – 53 points
5. Denmark – 51 points
6. Canada – 45 points
7. United States – 43 points
8. Spain – 24 points
9. Switzerland – 23 points
*United States penalised 4 season points
*New Zealand penalised 4 season points
*Switzerland penalised 2 season points
*Spain penalised 2 season points