Tensions run high between Australia and New Zealand on SailGP’s fastest day

On one of the wildest days seen on a SailGP racecourse, the Championship speed record was broken twice in the space of three races at the Range Rover France Sail Grand Prix in Saint-Tropez.

Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain SailGP Team hit 53.47 knots in the day’s first race, before the French team led by Quentin Delapierre recorded a stunning 53.96 knots in the last race of the day to set a new all-time record for the league.

When the dust had settled on an enthralling day on the water, New Zealand came out on top winning two of the day’s three races. A resurgent United States team excelled in the challenging conditions with Jimmy Spithill ending the day in second place.

A dogfight looms to take the final place in the event final tomorrow with just two points separating third-placed Australia from fifth-placed Great Britain, with home team France nestled in between.

The speed record was broken twice – Bob Martin pic

But it was the end of the first race of the day that proved contentious, with Australia’s reaction to a bold manoeuvre by the New Zealand team seeing them crash down just short of the line when leading and then overtaken by four boats.

New Zealand driver Peter Burling defended his team’s actions after the race and criticized the conduct of series leader Tom Slingsby after the incident.

Burling said: “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.”

Slingsby said the work of the shore and tech teams to repair his boat after the crash in between race one and two was remarkable. He was heavily critical of New Zealand.

“To me, Pete just coming up at us like that is just unsafe, we are just trying to finish the race here. I just don’t think what he did is worth it for one point, but no doubt he has a different opinion. He’s always had a pretty warped view, so would be interesting to hear him explain it,” Slingsby said.

Outside of that rivalry, it was a day to savor for Delapierre and the French team, as it not only enjoyed setting the speed record but delighted the home fans with second place in the day’s final race to put itself firmly in the mix for a second straight event final.

“To be honest I don’t believe today, it was incredible, I’ve never seen anything like it, SailGP keeps pushing the limits in every Grand Prix, it’s fantastic,” Delapierre said.

“Breaking the record is super cool, it’s so good for the confidence of the team, our mindset, and our morale for the weekend.”

However, SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts predicted the boats will go even faster in the very near future.

Coutts said: “I think that’s probably the limit for the current configuration but once we get the new foils and, even more importantly, the new rudders, then we will be able to go significantly faster and I think we’ll see speeds of possibly 59.40 knots.”

It was by far the best day of Season 3 for the United States team and Spithill, as they never finished outside of the top three and look to be an excellent chance of a first event final this season.

“It was an exciting day, I thought the entire team did a great job, it’s about as difficult as it gets out there and they all deserve credit for how they handled it. We just kept trying to stay calm in the lead-up, and then we really put the hammer down and went for it once the racing got underway,” Spithill said.

Lighter winds are expected for tomorrow with the 29 metre wings likely to be used for the day’s racing. The new ‘Super Sunday’ format, which will see three fleet races take place before the event final, means any team can make the three-race decider and promises an exciting day of racing.

Day two of racing starts at 2.30pm local time and is live on Canal+ 360 in France. Fans around the globe can watch where they are at SailGP.com/watch.

Day Two Racing (incl. Event Final): Sunday September 11, 2.30 p.m.-4 p.m. Central European Summer Time

Day one standings after 3 races:
1 // New Zealand // 27 points
2 // United States // 25 points
3 // Australia // 20 points
4 // France // 19 points
5 // Great Britain // 18 points
6 // Spain// 15 point
7 // Denmark // 13 points
8 // Canada // 12 points
9 // Switzerland // 9 points*

*Switzerland SailGP Team penalized four points for making contact with United States SailGP Team in practice racing

Season 3 Championship standings after four events:
1 // Australia // 36 points
2 // New Zealand // 32 points
3 // Denmark // 28 points
4 // Canada // 27 points
5 // Great Britain // 26 points
6 // France // 24 points
7 // United States // 19 points
8 // Switzerland // 11 points
9 // Spain // 11 points

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