New frontiers as SailGP makes Middle Eastern debut

Dubai: The SailGP title race has never been more wide open, with three different winners in the last three events, as the sport’s best athletes prepare for the inaugural Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas.

On the spectacularly coloured waters of the Mina Rashid precinct in front of the globally recognised Dubai skyline, all nine F50s made their final preparations for the weekend’s racing at the official practice day.

Earlier at the pre-race press conference, with official partners from P&O Marinas as well as the Dubai Sports Council and Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism in attendance, drivers were predicting a thrilling weekend of racing on the tightest race course so far this season.

Switzerland co-driver Sébastien Schneiter said: “This racecourse is very good, we’re sailing right next to the wall, the fans could almost high five us when we’re tacking on the boundary so I think this event will go down in SailGP history as one of the best events for the fans. The flat water is really great for the F50, it means we can push the F50 really hard.”

Great Britain driver Sir Ben Ainslie agreed: “It’s going to be really tight and incredibly exciting for both the competitors and the spectators.

“It will come down to the tight boat-on-boat manoeuvres. On such a tight racecourse, it’s hard trying to get separation from the other boats, because the moment you’re alongside too many other boats, you’re all slowing each other down. The ones that find the space will probably be the ones that do quite well.”

After seven events this season, Australia holds the lead in the Championship by four points over New Zealand, with France currently occupying the final spot in the coveted top three ’ that will make the Grand Final in San Francisco.

The race for those final positions continues to tighten after the varied event results over the European summer, with just seven points separating France from the seventh placed United States.

Winner of the Range Rover France Sail Grand Prix, U.S. driver, Jimmy Spithill said: “Without a doubt, you can truly say now any team can win a race weekend, so it is really trying to avoid the carnage out there and on a race track like this anything can happen. It’s about being consistent and we have to get out there and post some reasonable scores, all the guys are thinking that.”

Fresh from a victory at the last event, the Spain Sail Grand Prix presented by Near, Quentin Delapierre, driver of the France team, said his athletes were feeling like genuine title contenders.

Delapierre said: “I’m not really focused on this Grand Prix or the next one, I am focusing on San Francisco, I want to be in the top three, if you focus on winning every Grand Prix you will lose your mind. I think the French team has to focus on San Francisco only now and keeping our place in the top three.”

Australia has held the Championship lead from the first event of the season, but driver, Tom Slingsby admitted his team has never been under more pressure.

“It’s very much getting more open,” Slingsby said. “One thing I always look at, is which teams have won events and obviously now, New Zealand have shown they can win events, they can step up to the plate.

“Now we have new event winners with France and the United States. So to me, I think the biggest threat is someone that performs in a final and can win that last race and that pool is really opening up a bit.”

Racing starts at 3.00pm local time. For details on how to watch around the globe, visit: http://SailGP.com/watch

Season 3 Championship standings after six events:
1 // Australia // 50 points
2 // New Zealand // 46 points
3 // France // 41 points
4 // Great Britain // 40 points
5 // Canada // 36 points
6 // Denmark // 36 points
7 // United States // 34 points
8 // Spain // 19 points
9 // Switzerland // 14 points

*United States penalized 4 season points for incident with France
*Switzerland penalized 2 season points for incident with United States

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