Slingsby chuffed as Australia, Danes lead Sydney SailGP

Jasper Bruce |

Australia are co-leaders with Denmark after the opening three races of SailGP racing in Sydney.
Australia are co-leaders with Denmark after the opening three races of SailGP racing in Sydney.

Tom Slingsby has declared Australia produced a season-best performance in charging to equal-top spot on the leaderboard after day one of the Sydney SailGP.

Both chasing their first overall wins of the season, Australia and Denmark each had 26 points following three races in windy conditions on Sydney Harbour.

The experienced crews were the most consistent on Saturday, with in-form New Zealand (24 points) rounding out the top three ahead of the second and final day.

Looking to recover from a season-worst seventh-placed finish at last month’s Abu Dhabi SailGP, Australia won the first race, came second in the second and finished fourth in the third.

“I felt like we sailed as well as we have all season,” Australian driver Slingsby told AAP.

“It would’ve been so easy to over-react after Abu Dhabi and change processes which have worked really well for us for a few years. But we didn’t really change much.

“We’re going to go into tomorrow with a good chance of winning.”

The Canadian and German boats were at the centre of drama on Saturday.

Languishing in eighth spot on the rankings, Canada retired after experiencing mechanical issues during the first race, which they finished in last place.

The fleet was reduced to nine boats thereafter.

Contesting their first Sydney SailGP, Germany came close to capsizing late in the second race as they attempted to evade the French crew around the penultimate mark.

The boat had to give way to France, the defending Sydney SailGP champions, but hesitated and missed the mark, eventually finishing the race eighth.

“It was a big misjudgement of how much height the French would get,” said German driver Erik Heil.

“That was 100 per cent on me.”

Germany SailGP Team.
Team Germany go close to capsizing in race two on Sydney Harbour. (HANDOUT/SAILGP)

The United States and Great Britain were the most disappointing boats; the Americans finished the second and third races in last place.

Team GBR, in eighth spot for this event, appear to still be finding their feet under new driver Giles Scott, who only joined the team in Abu Dhabi.

Australia dominated race one, foiling on their way to the third mark to snatch the USA’s lead.

Slingsby quickly turned the race into a runaway and finished 65 seconds ahead of the second-placed Danes.

Just after the fourth mark in the second race, Australia made the best of upwind conditions to storm past Denmark and to the top of the chasing pack.

Around the penultimate mark, Slingsby’s boat was breathing down the neck of the young Spanish team but could not take the lead and had to be content with second.

Under the guidance of fill-in driver Nathan Outteridge, New Zealand built up a big lead sailing downwind from the second mark of the final race.

Boats reached speeds of 80km/h in the speedy final hit-out but Australia were unable to break the top three despite a late challenge on the French.

Racing will continue on Sunday with two more fleet races and a final for the three best-performing boats across the event to that point.

Australia will look to shake the Danish off and hope to open up a bigger gap on New Zealand, whom they lead by six points atop the overall season rankings.

“I don’t think there’s anyone we’d rather beat than the Aussies tomorrow. That’d be good, but let’s see,” Danish driver Nicolai Sehested, back for his first race since paternity leave, said.

“They’re a great team. We’ve just got to keep our cool.”

AAP