Aussies tied on top with Denmark after an action-packed opening day on Sydney Harbour


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SYDNEY – February 24, 2024 – Tom Slingsby and his Australian crew have delivered for the home crowd at the opener of the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix, securing a solid second place but on equal points with Nicolai Sehested’s ROCKWOOL Denmark, who takes the top spot in a thrilling showdown on Sydney Harbour.

After a light-wind season to date, fans finally got to see SailGP in its full glory – close racing, and plenty of drama. The highly anticipated Sydney event got off to an exciting start with gusty conditions that tested the athletes and provided an action-packed first day on the waters of Sydney Harbour including a near capsize by Erik Heil’s Germany.

In front of a fervent home crowd, Slingsby’s Australia team was back with a bang after the disappointment of a season-worst seventh-place finish in Abu Dhabi. Securing a 1-2-4 result in the eighth event of SailGP Season 4, Australia remains firmly in the hunt for its season-first win and ready to defend its title on home waters, although will have a tough challenge from Denmark who is also after its maiden SailGP win and finished the day with a 2-3-2 scoreline to take the overnight lead.

Thousands of Australian fans watched on from Genesis Island – right in the center of the race course – and hundreds of spectator boats as the ten strong fleet delivered dramatic racing that saw three different race winners. In the opening race, Australia took advantage of its favored gusty wind conditions on Sydney Harbour, flying across the start line in Race 1 in record time and maintaining an unchallenged lead for the race, and averaging speeds of 60k/ph. 

Slingsby said: “It was tough today with a southerly course but we’re really happy with how we sailed – probably one of the best days we’ve sailed this season. We had a strategy to stay close to Genesis Island in each race and that worked for us to get three good races.

“We need to start better than we did today. If we make the final, we need to be more aggressive in the final to get the win.”

The Flying Roos then made a strong comeback in the second race of the day after a slow start to finish in second behind an impressive performance from Diego Botin’s Spanish team who took the win. The race wasn’t without drama as the teams fought to get in front, resulting in a near capsize for the German team when it came head-to-head with Quentin Delapierre’s France at the fifth gate and needed to take evasive action, missing the turning mark – which it nearly hit – and just saving a capsize.

The final race of the day saw an impressive performance from Australian sailor, Nathan Outteridge – stepping in for Peter Burling – who steered the New Zealand SailGP Team to first place after some smart decisions saw the team make the best of the tricky conditions to lead the pack for the majority of the race. ROCKWOOL Denmark crossed the line second to cement the overnight lead, France finished third and the home team secured fourth position.

Sehested said: “It was a good first day back. Obviously there is still all to play for tomorrow but we are happy to get through day one in good shape. We managed to judge the breeze well and when we saw the breeze on the water we went for it and if we didn’t, we stayed away. But tomorrow is a different day and we will need to go and get back into light wind mode for tomorrow and hopefully can do a good job with the breeze again.” 

For one team it was a day to forget, as hydraulic pump issues for Phil Robertson’s Canada team saw them finish last in the opening race and then, despite the best efforts to get them sailing again, the technical issue meant they couldn’t compete in the rest of the day’s racing.

Robertson said: “We started to lose hydraulic functions at the start of the first race. Starting with the jib and then the foil function and then the wing functions until nothing was working so it’s really disappointing. We still don’t know what the problem is but hopefully they will have a good look at it and we will be able to sail tomorrow. I am actually pretty furious. You come here promised a boat to race with – we are not allowed to touch the boat – and when you don’t get a boat that’s race ready you have to ask questions. It’s really disappointing and there is no redress but we have to suck it up, take it on the chin and move on.” 

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