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SailGP: New Zealand closes in on top spot after ultra light airs victory in Abu Dhabi

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The New Zealand SailGP team did the double in the UAE to secure back-to-back victories after winning the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

Mastering the light conditions and its nemesis – the 29 meter wing – New Zealand beat Spain and the United States in front of a sold out crowd. In a change of fortune, overall leaders Australia missed out on its first event final of the season to finish seventh.

Burling said: “We have been the ones who have just missed the final by a few points at previous events. Finally winning the last two has been fun but it has been very stressful racing – just battling it out in the middle of the fleet all day in these light wind conditions, it’s not easy.”

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Image © Ricardo Pinto / SailGP

The first race of the day saw a chaotic start with all but three boats – Australia, Spain and France – over the line early and having to get to the back of the pack. The fleet found themselves in light winds and on a tight racecourse for the second day, meaning Australia’s strong start gave them a substantial lead on the rest of the fleet.

Extending to nearly 200 meters, the rest of the fleet didn’t stand a chance to catch the three-time SailGP Champion and overall season leader, with Australia taking the win from Quentin Delapierre’s France and Erik Heil’s Germany. Overnight leader Spain – after such a promising start to the event – found themselves at the back of the fleet in tenth and with work to do to have a chance of making the event final.

However, Diego Botín’s Spanish team rallied in the second race of the day. Getting off the line quickly, the team led from start to finish, to win the race and book its place in the final. A remarkable feat considering they got there with three first places and two last places.

After a promising start to the day, it was a disappointment for Slingsby who mistimed the start, and crossed the line early, getting a penalty and putting Australia at the back of the fleet and with a tall task to claw back and make the final. The first one the Aussies would miss this season.

Slingsby said: “In the fifth race of the day, something went wrong with our software and we paid the price for it. It does not change the strategy for us, our big goal is to win at the end of the season, so we just need to make that final.”

Season 4’s newest team to the league, Germany, continued the success in the second race to take an impressive second behind Spain – an equal best in SailGP – and while not enough to make the final, Germany finished fifth overall – its best result to date.

The new-look US team – with Taylor Canfield in the driving seat – sailed well to secure a fourth and third, to make it into the first final since the team was sold, with the final spot secured by the Burling’s Kiwi’s.

In the three-boat event final, the Kiwis had the strongest start, crossing the line first and leading round the first mark from Spain and the United States. With New Zealand in the lead, Spain and the US battled it out but Canfield decided to split from the fleet at the second mark in search of more wind – which left the Kiwis and the Spanish team neck and neck.

New Zealand continued the lead around Gate 3, with Spain and US arriving at the same time – although with Spain the right of way boat, Canfield was forced to go around outside them. New Zealand managed to extend its lead to take the win and claim the title of champions of the UAE – followed by Spain and finally the US.

Canfield said: “It’s a little disappointing, but we made it to third place – a great result. I think we are sailing the boat well and even if we are behind, we can come back in the races. It’s very new for a lot of us, some in new positions or new to the boat, so I think there is much more to come. We are looking forward to it.”

The results from this weekend closes the gap between the Aussies – who still remain first overall on the leaderboard – ahead of New Zealand who have bumped their way up to second place – with only a six point gap between first and second. The Kiwis now hold the record for the most event wins across Season 4. A podium result for the US, sees them move up the leaderboard from fifth to third.

With the conclusion of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council comes the success of the global league’s largest ever Inspire Program. Mubadala – who became the Global Partner of the Inspire Program for Season 4 – has supported SailGP’s efforts to champion STEM education and sport in the region and over the course of the Abu Dhabi event, over 1,500 youth were engaged through the program’s Learning, Careers and Racing pillars.

The SailGP fleet packs up and leaves the UAE and arrives at its first stop in APAC for the eighth event of Season 4 in the heart of Sydney, Australia. Fans don’t have long to wait for their next fix of SailGP as the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney takes place on February 24-25. For details and tickets head to SailGP.com/Australia .

MUBADALA ABU DHABI SAIL GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY ABU DHABI SPORTS COUNCIL // FINAL STANDINGS //
1 // New Zealand 10 points
2 // Spain 9 points
3 // United States 8 points
4 // France 7 points
5 // Germany 6 points
6 // Canada 5 points
7 // Australia 4 points
8 // Emirates GBR 3 points
9 // ROCKWOOL Denmark 2 points
10 // Switzerland 1 point

SAILGP SEASON 4 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after seven events) //
1 // Australia 56 points
2 // New Zealand 50 points**
3 // United States 43 points
4 // ROCKWOOL Denmark 43 points
5 // Spain 42 points*
6 // Emirates GBR 41 points
7 // France 38 points
8 // Canada 37 points***
9 // Germany 16 points****
10 // Switzerland 12 points*****

*Spain SailGP Team docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía-Cádiz

**New Zealand SailGP Team unable to compete in Taranto due to the structural failure of the team’s wingsail at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez

***Canada SailGP Team Docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez

****Germany SailGP Team docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix

*****Switzerland SailGP Team docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council

Main image © Ricardo Pinto / SailGP

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