SailGP Sydney, championship leaders head to home waters
SailGP Sydney, championship leaders head to home waters
SailGP has officially arrived in Sydney as all nine F50s hit the water for final practice ahead of the ninth event of what's been an entertaining Season 3 so far. With conditions predicted to produce high-speed racing this weekend, fans are in for a treat at the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney.
Only the ITM New Zealand Grand Prix | Christchurch on March 18-19 and the Season 3 Grand Final in San Francisco remain on the season schedule, so events in Sydney will go a long way to determining who'll be battling for the top prize on San Francisco Bay on May 6-7.
Much of the focus of this week's build up has been on the Australia SailGP Team, led by Tom Slingsby, which holds a commanding lead in the championship standings and will be aiming to replicate last year's thrilling victory on home waters.
Speaking at the official pre-event press conference in the middle of the event site in Barangaroo, Sydney, Slingsby assured locals that his team wasn't resting on its laurels, despite their enviable position on top of the leaderboard.
Slingsby said: "I certainly don't feel that we are locked in for the Grand Final yet - in this fleet, we've seen it multiple times, collisions happen and if you're deemed to be in the wrong you can lose season points and there's some big points there, so no I don't feel we're locked in.
"Pete Burling and the New Zealand team has definitely been the best performing team for the second half of the season, they've had a few mistakes that's allowed us to have a gap between them but we expect a strong showing from them here as they'll aim to quieten the home crowd."
Burling's in-form New Zealand team is entering the weekend in second position, nine points behind Slingsby's Australia, and the Kiwi driver expressed his excitement to get out on the water and take on the Aussies, while also thinking of those affected by extreme weather back home.
Burling said: "We always love racing the Australians and it's an amazing competition - we enjoy the rivalry. The level of this league means it's anyone's event, everyone is sailing at such an incredible level. It's a surreal weekend with everything that's going on back home and we send our thoughts and love to everyone affected back there - some of the stories we have heard make you feel extremely privileged to be a New Zealander."
A further five points adrift of the New Zealand team in third is the Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team, led by Sir Ben Ainslie, who was in a justifiably buoyant mood at the press conference, boasting a strong personal racing record in Sydney and celebrating Emirates becoming the team's first-ever Title Sponsor on a three-year deal earlier this week.
Ainslie said: "I love sailing on the harbor, it's my favorite sailing venue anywhere in the world and there's always a good bit of Aussie/Pommy rivalry. We look forward to that! It's a massive moment for our team and for the league as well to see a brand like Emirates supporting the team and the league. We've seen other teams bring in significant partners too and that's really important for the future of the league and shows we're heading in the right direction."
It's a make or break weekend for the United States SailGP Team and its driver Jimmy Spithill, with nothing less than a win this weekend needed to realistically keep them in contention for the Grand Final. The week got off to a bad start with strategist Erika Reineke fracturing her leg in practice on Thursday.
Spithill said: "We wish Erika the best and a speedy recovery. Thanks to the Aussies we have fleet reserve athlete Lucy Copeland in the team who will be filling in and in typical Aussie fashion she jumped onto the boat and immediately started ripping into us. Her first line was I'm here to help you guys win races again. She's fit in seamlessly. Her personality is a lot like Erika, she loves a laugh."
It was a first press conference for new Spain SailGP Team driver Diego Botin, making his debut this weekend in the driver's seat of an F50.
Botin said: "Obviously we feel pressure every day as athletes and this is very new for me, so we are focusing on putting the best foot forward now and using these three events left to perform safely - that's the main goal - and be able to perform and fight hard for Season 4."
As the build up to the weekend's racing continued, SailGP's thought leadership program Champions For Change brought together like-minded individuals at International Tower Three in Barangaroo on Friday. Guest speakers included SailGP's Chief Purpose Officer, Fiona Morgan, Anita Mitchell, Chief Executive of Placemaking NSW, Tim Silverwood, Co-founder Ocean Impact Organisation, Emirates GBR team member, Hannah Mills and Australia's Nina Curtis.
Spectators wanting a unique experience will have to move fast to secure tickets with only a handful remaining this weekend for Genesis (Shark) Island, situated right in the middle of the high-octane racing, spectators can enjoy proceedings in a far from traditional manner. See here for the range of ticket options available.
Racing starts at 4.00pm local time and is live on 7+, 7mate, Kayo Sports or Fox Sports - to find out more on how to watch around the world, go to SailGP.com/Watch.
SailGP Season 3 Championship Standings (after eight events) //
1 // Australia // 68 points
2 // New Zealand // 59 points
3 // Great Britain // 54 points
4 // France // 53 points
5 // Denmark // 51 points
6 // Canada // 45 points
7 // United States // 43 points
8 // Spain // 24 points
9 // Switzerland // 23 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 // Canada // 1074 points
2 // New Zealand // 1072 points
3 // Denmark // 1069 points
4 // Great Britain // 1065 points
5 // France // 1035 points
6 // Spain // 1019 points
7 // United States // 1009 points
8 // Australia // 998 points
9 // Switzerland // 985 points