Canada achieve first-ever SailGP event win as their Kiwi skipper beats his countrymen and Australia in tight Christchurch decider… with Great Britain and France now set on a collision course for season finale
- Canada edged out New Zealand and Australia to win Christchurch SailGP event
- Their skipper Phil Robertson is a Kiwi, so the locals weren’t entirely disappointed
- Great Britain narrowly missed out on the podium race, finishing fourth overall
Canada achieved their first-ever SailGP event win as they edged out home favourites New Zealand and championship leaders Australia in a gripping final race in Christchurch.
Their skipper Phil Robertson hails from New Zealand and was apologetic to his countrymen as his adopted team just about crossed the line in first place.
The outcome nonetheless left Australia and New Zealand strongly positioned to reach the winner-takes-all grand final race at the last event in San Francisco in May.
Which boat joins them in that final will come down to a battle between Great Britain and France in the finest of tradition.
The French boat of Quentin Delapierre will head to the city of the Golden Gate just one solitary point ahead of Sir Ben Ainslie’s British crew in the overall classification – and someone is going to be left bitterly disappointed.
Canada claimed victory on the waters of Lyttelton Harbour, edging out New Zealand and Australia in a tight and tense finale to the weekend’s racing
The Canadian skipper Phil Robertson hails from New Zealand and apologised to the local crowd after upsetting the Kiwi team
The nine boats in action on the waters of Lyttelton Harbour on the second day of racing
Britain enjoyed a consistent weekend here until a sixth-place finish in the fifth fleet race, following a sub-par start, saw them slip behind the Canadians on the leaderboard.
‘We didn’t do a good enough job of executing the starts today,’ Ainslie said. ‘We were actually in pretty good positions coming into both starts but didn’t quite get it right.
‘We got wound up with the French in that final start which didn’t work out for us. The team did a great job to pull through but we didn’t quite do enough to get into the podium race, which was frustrating.
‘But in terms of the overall, gaining a point on France [in the overall standings] was quite important heading into San Francisco.’
SailGP’s unique format means the entire 11-race season will boil down to the final three-boat race in San Francisco, after the nine-strong field is whittled down over the course of the weekend.
‘It has been a while since we won one of these events,’ Ainslie added. ‘We haven’t won an event all season and if there is a time to do it, it will be in the final.’
Robertson’s Canadian boat went head-to-head with Peter Burling’s Kiwis and a partisan home support on Lyttelton Harbour after Australia lagged behind early on.
Despite falling off the foils and also picking up a penalty at one stage for straying outside the course boundary, the Canadians had more speed than their rivals.
Having lost the final races in Bermuda and Chicago earlier in the season, Robertson was thrilled to ‘get the monkey off our shoulder’.
Ben Ainslie and the British crew narrowly missed out on the podium race in Christchurch
The British boat in pursuit of Australia (middle) and New Zealand (left) during a race
Canada’s crew spray champagne on their boat after winning the final race on Sunday
1. Australia 84pts
2. New Zealand 73pts
3. France 69pts
4. Great Britain 68pts
5. Denmark 60pts
6. Canada 59pts
7. United States 57pts
8. Switzerland 29pts
9. Spain 29pts
He added: ‘It feels pretty good, especially doing it in New Zealand, my home country. I’m stoked.
‘It was pretty special for everyone in the team; we’ve had some ups and downs, especially coming out of Sydney, we had to regroup, so to get a win off the back of that, we’re pretty pumped.
‘To get the win in New Zealand is awesome and as a good Canadian would say, “sorry New Zealand!”
The Canadians had squeezed Britain out of the final in the closing moments of the fifth fleet race of the weekend.
Australia had recovered from a disappointing Saturday to win both fleet races on Sunday and surge into the three-boat final.
It means the Aussies are comfortably top of the season leaderboard on 84 points and only an absolute disaster in San Francisco will deny them a spot in the grand final.
New Zealand enjoyed a very good weekend here and are second on 73 points, seizing upon home advantage to close the gap to Australia slightly.
But it’s the cross-Channel clash between Britain and France that will provide the most intrigue in the final race weekend of the SailGP campaign.
Most in the home crowd were left disappointed as Canada edged out New Zealand in the final
The rolling hills of Lyttelton provided a stunning backdrop to the penultimate race of the year
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