New Zealand driver Peter Burling to make first home waters appearance at ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND– SailGP continues its ever-expanding journey into new territories this weekend with the league’s first-ever New Zealand event taking place on March 18 and 19 at the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch. In the spectacular setting of Lyttelton Harbor, eight national teams will look to upset home water hero Peter Burling and his New Zealand SailGP Team.
The New Zealand F50 – now fully repaired after being struck by lightning in Singapore – enjoyed some brief time on the water Thursday before high winds meant the cancellation of Friday’s practice racing. It means all teams will be largely entering into the unknown on Saturday for the penultimate event of SailGP Season 3.
A warm welcome has been extended to all teams in a multitude of ways this week, the most impressive and emotive being an official pōwhiri (Māori welcome ceremony), held at Rāpaki marae, the ancestral home of Te Hapū ō Ngāti Wheke Rāpaki, guardians of the harbor in which SailGP will be racing.
All nine boats will be on the startline in Christchurch after a remarkable effort from SailGP Technologies and the tech team to make repairs to the fleet after a weather event in Sydney caused significant damage.
At the official pre-race press conference Burling, who recently celebrated his wedding, said his focus was now on giving home fans a victory.
Burling said: “We’re here to try and win our home event, we’re super excited to be racing in Lyttelton. We’re incredibly proud to be racing in front of home fans, we love the support we’ve got and are looking forward to putting on an amazing show. For us it’s more excitement than pressure, it’s something that everyone knows in the team, that this is an event like no other for us.”
Even while holding a significant lead in the season standings, Australia driver Tom Slingsby said his team was taking no chances with the SailGP Season 3 Grand Final one event away.
Slingsby said: “We do have to remember that if we have collisions we can be knocked out of the final. We’re going to have a talk about who we might want to try and help into the final or who we want to take out of the final, it’s all part of the game. For sure the Kiwis are probably our biggest rival. They’ve won three events this year, they’ve beaten us in those final races multiple times. I think if Pete was in the same situation as we are he’d be going after us probably.”
Event winners at the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney last month, France driver Quentin Delapierre said his team was fully focused on keeping its spot in the all-important top three in the rankings.
Delapierre said: “Our relationship as a team is in such good shape and the collaboration between us all is going really well. This team puts everything into the team every time we are on board and we are getting back rewards from that energy. We just make really good decisions together.”
A familiar face in New Zealand from his previous sailing exploits, United States driver Jimmy Spithill said it had been an interesting experience to be in the country again. The U.S. team welcomes a new women’s pathway athlete for the event, Cameron Farrah, in a season which has seen a high level of rotation.
Spithill said: “When I look back we’ve had some planned rotation, we’ve had broken legs, sickness, conflicts in schedules, but as a professional sports team you have to be ready for that. And the only way to be ready for that is to have depth in your roster. I believe we’re in a much better position now than we were in Season 2. We’ve actually got a roster where we can bring people in and out and cycle them through. I’m very happy with the team we’ve got here and looking ahead to the future we believe we can go out and win races, we’ve shown that.”
On the eve of racing, SailGP partnered with Yachting New Zealand, ChristchurchNZ and Women Who Sail NZ to deliver Breaking Boundaries, an evening with SailGP Women’s Pathway athletes at Lyttelton Arts Factory. In front of a packed audience of 170 young aspiring female athletes listening to Hannah Mills (GBR), Katja Salskov-Iversen (DEN), Liv Mackay (NZL) and Isabella Bertold (CAN) sharing stories of how they developed their careers, challenges for women in sport, the future of gender equity in sailing.
On the water, racing starts at 3.00pm local time on March 18 and is live on TV3 and Three Play, as well as Sky Sports in New Zealand, to find out more how to watch around the world, go to SailGP.com/Watch.
SAILGP SEASON 3 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after nine events) //
1 // Australia // 76 points
2 // New Zealand // 64 points
3 // France // 63 points
4 // Great Britain // 61 points
5 // Denmark // 57 points
6 // United States // 52 points
7 // Canada // 49 points
8 // Spain // 27 points
9 // Switzerland // 25 points
*United States penalized 4 season points
*New Zealand penalized 4 season points
*Switzerland penalized 2 season points
*Spain penalized 2 season points
SAILGP SEASON 3 IMPACT LEAGUE STANDINGS //
1 // New Zealand // 1235 points
2 // Denmark // 1232 points
3 // Canada // 1222 points
4 // Great Britain // 1218 points
5 // France // 1185 points
6 // Spain // 1167 points
7 // Australia // 11153 points
8 // United States // 1151 points
9 // Switzerland // 1143 points