SailGP: Robertson comments that the race to third is wide open

Article by Miranda Blazeby, Digital Editor, SailGP

The race to Season 4’s three-boat Grand Final is still ‘wide open’, Canada driver Phil Robertson says, with ‘three teams ready to pounce’ on Spain, currently in third place.

Just three events remain before Season 4’s Grand Final, which will see the top three ranked teams battle it out for the Championship title. Spain’s victory in Bermuda bolstered Diego Botin’s season score to 65, just two points shy of three time champions Australia in second.

But ROCKWOOL DEN and France lurk in 4th and 5th respectively with 56 points apiece, while Canada in 6th is just three points shy heading into its first ever home event in Halifax next month.

While Spain may have extended its lead by winning Bermuda, there’s everything to play for when racing resumes, Robertson says, stressing that Canada is ‘very much in the hunt’ for a place in the Grand Final.

“The way I see it, Spain has everything to lose right now and there’s three teams pretty close behind that are ready to pounce when they do,” he says.

He pointed to the constantly improving calibre of the F50 fleet, which has made the ‘margins so slim now’.

“I would say Spain was 15cm away from coming out with maximum damage points [in Bermuda] and probably close to a last place finish,” he says, adding “it’s wide open and everyone’s in the game – anything can happen.”

‘Anything can happen’

This was clearly demonstrated in Christchurch when Australia dramatically collided with a race mark during the first fleet race, resulting in a loss of 12 event points and 8 season points. This, combined with New Zealand’s home win, saw the Aussies drop to second place, while the Kiwis rose to the top of the leaderboard.

Canada too has had its fair share of on water incidents, which have affected its season score. In Saint-Tropez, a collision with Spain cost the Canadians 8 event points, as well as 4 season points. Robertson later said he was ‘firmly against’ the umpiring decision, which did not penalize Spain.

Five events later in Sydney, Canada was unable to race for the entire opening day due to technical problems, resulting in a 10th place finish.

“There’s been a lot of stuff outside of our control and that’s really hurt us,” says Robertson. “I”m not going to lie, it sucks, but we’ve got to take it on the chin.”

Heading into Halifax

Heading into Halifax, he admits the team ‘would like to be higher’ on the overall season leaderboard, but said there’s plenty of opportunity left with three events to go.

“We have three events and we’re in the hunt,” he says. “We’re coming into the pointy end of the season and if you’ve still got a sniff then you’re in a happy place.”

Canada heads home to Halifax after finishing 4th in Bermuda. Despite ‘sailing extremely well all weekend’, Canada had a ‘disappointing’ end to the event. The team had to finish 7th in the last fleet race to proceed into the three-boat Final, but slid backwards through the fleet to finish 9th. This meant Canada just missed out on a place in the Final, while Spain proceeded instead.

Despite the weekend ‘not ending the way we wished it had’, Robertson says Bermuda was ‘hugely positive’, with improvements made throughout the team and a decent 4th place finish.

“You’ve got five races in a weekend and you need five good ones,” Robertson says. “It’s that close in SailGP now that you can’t afford to have a bad race.”

Looking ahead to Halifax however, Robertson says the ‘team is in a great place’ and in ‘good shape’ for its first home event.

Excitement for SailGP’s Canada debut is palpable – tickets sold out in a matter of hours and SailGP is expecting to host its biggest Bring Your Own Boat program, with fans flocking to watch the racing from the water.

Teams cope differently with home town pressures, but with Australia and New Zealand both winning their Season 4 home events, Robertson is positive the shoreline support is ‘only going to help’ Canada’s on water performance.

“All the teams which have raced in their home venues tend to step it up a level that week and we’re of the opinion that it’s going to be the same for us,” Robertson says. “We’re going to have a huge amount of supporters backing us there and I think the crowd numbers are going to blow SailGP’s minds.”

‘Canada is for sale’

As the final approach into Season 4’s Grand Final begins, Season 5 rumors are already rumbling, with two new privately owned teams understood to be interested in joining the league. But with only 11 F50s available and two new potential teams bringing the fleet to 12, questions are being asked about which league-owned team could be eliminated.

Pressure is now on these teams – Australia, France, New Zealand, Spain and Canada – to find buyers fast. Securing a deal, Robertson says, is high on the agenda, with ‘a lot of interested parties’ circling.

“The team is for sale, to put it bluntly,” Robertson says, “and we’re in a really strong position where we’re able to negotiate.”

He revealed that ‘it’s coming down to the business end with a few conversations’ and he personally is ‘very happy with where [the team] is at’.

SailGP’s first ever Canada event will offer the perfect showcase opportunity for the team when racing gets underway on June 1/2 in Halifax.

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