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SailGP end of season rivalries set to ignite at inaugural event in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Yacht Racing Podcast

For the first time in SailGP history, the ten national teams take flight on the waters of Halifax for the ROCKWOOL Canada Sail Grand Prix this weekend June 1-2. Marking the eleventh stop on the league’s largest calendar to date – thirteen events across North America, EMEA, and APAC – pressure weighs heavily on the entire fleet with only two events to go ahead of the $2 million Season 4 Grand Final in San Francisco on July 13-14.

The spotlight shines brightly on Phil Robertson and the Canada SailGP Team as they take to home waters for the very first time. The city of Halifax welcomes the global league with open arms – hosting a number of events and activations in the lead up to what’s predicted to be a superb weekend of racing with high winds expected to deliver an adrenaline-fueled spectacle for a sold-out crowd that snapped up tickets in record breaking time.

Competing on home waters has proven to give a few teams that extra firepower to secure an event win – Tom Slingsby and the Australia SailGP Team in Sydney, and Peter Burling and New Zealand’s Black Foils team in Christchurch.

Image © Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

After a disappointing run in Bermuda, time is running out for the Canadian team to secure a spot in the Grand Final – can racing in front of a home crowd finally lock in a first Season 4 event win for Canada?

Robertson said: “We are extremely pumped to be here in Canada – Halifax, what a harbour – it’s been a long time coming and one of the visions of the team when it first started was to have a home event and here we are – about to light it up!”

Taylor Canfield and the United States SailGP Team suffered the biggest devastation amongst the fleet at the last event when the team dramatically capsized ahead of the weekend during official practice racing caused by the wing-trimmer error.

USA athletes were thrown from the boat, thankfully only sustaining very minor injuries – however the F50 did not come out unscathed. As a result, the team was unable to compete in racing over the weekend due to significant damage to the wingsail. Due to the hard work of the SailGP Tech Team, USA will be back on the start line, ready to compete this weekend.

Canfield said: “We’re the new team in the league and pushing hard to have an all American team – we believe we have an incredible group of sailors in our country to get the job done. Good days out on the water – we are pushing towards the front of the fleet – with a few more events and training days, we will continue raising that bar.”

Image © Simon Bruty for SailGP

Contention lies around the fact that the USA team didn’t receive penalty points for the capsize in Bermuda. Slingsby said: “We were deemed to be recklessly sailing [in Christchurch] and through a mistake of our own – had serious damage to our boat and incurred a lot of season penalty points. They [USA SailGP Team] pressed a wrong button – that’s a mistake of their own – and incurred serious damage but zero penalty points. I don’t care what the rule is as long as it’s consistent and it hasn’t been consistent.”

The youngest team in the league, Diego Botin and Los Gallos of Spain, managed to secure a spectacular event win in Bermuda – making it their second event win of the season after victory in Los Angeles last July. The team now sits in third place on the overall leaderboard behind the Black Foils and the Aussies – and have managed to significantly extend their lead on Nicolai Sehested’s ROCKWOOL Denmark and Quentin Delapierre’s France in fourth and fifth place respectively.

Botin said: “At the beginning of the season we were dreaming about being in this position and we weren’t sure it was possible. We still have three events and you see a lot of teams improving from event to event because of the shared data in SailGP. Conditions here are going to be super tricky. We need to stay super focused because there are currently a lot of points on the table.”

Event wins and leaderboard success for the Spain SailGP Team is absolutely crucial as the team find themselves in a sticky situation where they may not have a team in Season 5 if they don’t find a buyer. And the Spanish are not alone – the same goes for France, Canada and New Zealand.

Quentin Delapierre, driver of France SailGP Team, said: “I truly believe that the French sailing nation has its place in SailGP and I want the French to stay in this league. I try to show the best image of the team, show our value and our ambition.”

Image © Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

Despite the rising concern of finding a team owner ahead of Season 5, Burling and the Black Foils are laser focused on remaining on top of the Season 4 leaderboard this weekend. Reigning champions Slingsby and the Australia SailGP Team trail ten points behind the Black Foils due to a combination of incurring season penalty points earlier this season and not having the best of performances in Bermuda.

The rivalry between the two heavyweight teams is at an all time high and Burling and Slingsby plan to do whatever it takes to come out on top.

Slingsby said: “It’s been tough staying on top for four years, we are going to go through highs and lows. We haven’t had many lows – we had one bad event in Christchurch and if we didn’t have that event we would still be leading the overall leaderboard.

“We have had a great season with eight podiums in ten events. Pete [Burling] and the team have won a lot more events than us. It makes it feel like we are the hunters for the first time in SailGP and we love being in this position.”

Rumours have surfaced that Saturday may consist of four fleet races – a final decision is expected to be made in the morning ahead of the first day of racing on Saturday June 1, with live racing between 4-5.30pm on both days.

ROCKWOOL CANADA SAIL GRAND PRIX //
Day One Racing: Saturday, June 1, 4.00 p.m. – 5.30 p.m. ADT
Day Two Racing: Sunday, June 2, 5.00 p.m. – 5.30 p.m. ADT

SAILGP SEASON 4 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after ten events) //
1 // New Zealand 77 points
2 // Australia 67 points
3 // Spain 65 points
4 // ROCKWOOL Denmark 56 points
5 // France 56 points
6 // Canada 53 points
7 // United States 49 points
8 // Emirates GBR 48 points
9 // Germany 32 points
10 // Switzerland 26 points

Main image © Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

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