Resurgent United States SailGP Team looks to challenge league leaders Australia and New Zealand alongside inspired home team Spain in Andalucía

Resurgent United States SailGP Team looks to challenge league leaders Australia and New Zealand alongside inspired home team Spain in Andalucía

Championship lead on the line as SailGP hits Cádiz

Sport

By SailGP
24/09/2022 - 08:08
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As SailGP enters the second half of its third season, a good result has never been more important for the nine national teams at the Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía - Cádiz presented by NEAR to keep alive their hopes of making the Grand Final.

Just one point separates Tom Slingsby's Australia and Peter Burling's New Zealand at the top of the championship standings, and the United States SailGP Team led by Jimmy Spithill is coming to Spain fresh from a breakthrough win at the Range Rover France Sail Grand Prix earlier this month..

It's a first home event as driver for Spain's Jordi Xammar, who's team sits bottom of the leaderboard heading to Cádiz, and is in desperate need of a good result on home waters.

Speaking at the pre-event press conference Xammar said: "When you come in as a new driver, you have so much to catch up in so many areas but now I feel more ready to take the lead. As a team we want to make another step in the right direction, we feel we are taking big steps forward. We think of all the kids going to sleep dreaming of a Spanish win and we will join them in this dream. We will go out and give our best tomorrow and try to make it happen."

At the other end of the leaderboard tensions boiled over between Slingsby and his closest rival Burling after an on the finish line incident at the last event in France. But both drivers were at pains to say they had buried any ill will.

Burling said: "I'd say it again if the same thing happened, we were in the heat of battle at the time, things have been resolved – what we did was absolutely fine and we're going to worry about Cádiz. For us it's about accumulating points, we're more interested in the distance between our team and fourth than the distance to first, it's all about getting into that final."

Slingsby said: "It's water under the bridge for us, I can see his point of view and he can see ours and we're happy to move on from here. When we get a challenge like this from the Kiwis it's motivating for me. I relish this sort of challenge, I love it and it kind of shows what kind of a sailor you are. So it's great for us but as Pete said as well we've got to try and not get too carried away with each other and be worrying about number one on the leaderboard because it is a battle of consistency and we need to make the top 3."

All drivers in the fleet expressed a wariness of Spithill's U.S. team after a spectacular return to form in Saint-Tropez.

Spithill said: "I don't think it's been a quick process, it's taken some time. Any time you look at making investment in the team and to build depth it takes time. The important part is that this is a confidence game and we've got that monkey off our back now, we know as a team that we can win and that belief is really powerful. We've got to ride that momentum. We've still got a lot of improvement to make."

SailGP will celebrate a special milestone in the quest for gender equity this weekend, with this event marking one year since female athletes raced onboard all F50s for the first time as part of SailGP's Women's Pathway.

Since then, female athletes have been onboard all teams in 100 percent of races.

Canada SailGP Team strategist Georgia Lewin-LaFrance said the Women's Pathway was already having an impact on inspiring the next generation.

Lewin-LaFrance said: "Going home to Canada and seeing the excitement and new passion from people from different backgrounds and generations for the league has really shown how big this is for Canada. I have always looked up to so many of the female athletes in the league in my youth and it's amazing to have the opportunity to race against them now and be learning from them directly. The opportunities for us are drastically increasing and I'd say to any aspiring female athletes – just go for it. That's what I did and I'm here today."

New Zealand SailGP Team strategist Liv Mackay believes it won't be long before female athletes are challenging their male counterparts for the driving position.

Mackay said: "It's an incredible feeling driving the F50, I'm very fortunate to get that opportunity recently and a lot of training time. It's been an amazing experience and I really enjoy helming the boat. I think the time is definitely coming and there's an amazing opportunity to focus on that, bring in more females to train and kick some of the guys out of the driver's seat some time in the future."

Racing starts at 4.00pm local time and is live on TV3 in Spain.

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