SailGP: Canada spoil New Zealand’s party with pulsating win in final in Lyttelton

Kiwi Phil Robertson and his Canadian team unleashed all their powers on the water to spike New Zealand and Australia’s hopes of winning the SailGP title in the final on Lyttelton ​Harbour on Sunday.

It was a moment to savour for the Canadians, who claimed their first title on the circuit. For the New Zealanders, it was a spiky pill to swallow after they dominated the first day’s sailing on the Saturday.

The New Zealanders, with driver Peter Burling eager to reward the local crowd with a victory, couldn’t match the Canadians, who made a superb start to the big showdown to keep the hosts and defending champion Tom Slingsby’s Australian boat at bay.

This was a race that had the crowd bellowing with delight and despair, in equal measure. Because until the sprint in the final leg it appeared the Kiwis could deliver the big prize. Instead they had to be content with second, with Australia taking third place.

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Despite coming second, the New Zealanders could take comfort from knowing that their second-placing in the regatta should be enough to secure a place in the winner-take-all US$1 million final in San Francisco in early May.

The plucky Canadians had to survive several frights in the final; they got a major scare in the fourth leg when they went off their foils but quickly recovered to keep a lead of around 70m in the fifth.

New Zealand were unable to beat Canada in the final on Sunday.


New Zealand were unable to beat Canada in the final on Sunday.

It seemed Robertson and his team wouldn’t keep the New Zealand boat at bay as the lead changed, but they managed to remain composed to surge ahead to enter the final gate in front.

New Zealand qualified for the final after bagging a second and third placing in the fleet races held on day-two.

Australia made excellent starts to the first two fleet races, reminding the rest of the field they had lost none of their mojo after failing to notch a victory on Saturday.

Minutes before the start of the opening race on Sunday Australian driver Tom Slingsby warned his opponents his team were motivated to improve on the fourth and second placings on day-one.

The third and final race on Saturday had been a dud for the Aussies after seaweed got caught on their rudder wing, forcing them out of contention in the first downward leg.

Nine teams battled it out in the earlier fleet races on Lyttelton Harbour.


Nine teams battled it out in the earlier fleet races on Lyttelton Harbour.

“We need to start sailing better,” Slingsby said. “It is clear to see that the New Zealand team is the best team here, and we are not sailing as we have in the past. We believe if we do get our confidence up and start sailing better, then we can beat them. We are just concentrating on ourselves.”

Slingsby proved true to his word. The Australians made the perfect start in race one, taking an early lead to leave the rest of the field to duke it out for the minor placings.

New Zealand, having drifted off the pace to be placed sixth after passing the second gate, recovered to finish second after keeping the French at bay ahead of the finish line. France had to be content with third placing, with Great Britain coming fourth.

The Aussies also owned the second race of the day, easy winners ahead of the United States, New Zealand and Canada with the latter doing enough to qualify for the final with their fourth placing.

New Zealand bagged a win and two second placings on the first day in front of a jubilant home crowd.

Given their form earlier in the day, the Aussies were expected to claim the top honours. Instead it was the Canadians who gazumped them and the Kiwis.

The Kiwis finished as top qualifiers for the final on 45 points, followed by Australia (38) and Canada (36).

Season 3 overall standings: Australia 84 points, New Zealand 73, France 69, Great Britain 68, Denmark 60, Canada 59, USA 57, Switzerland 29, Spain 29.