- Canada defeated New Zealand and Australia to win the Christchurch SailGP event
- Their skipper Phil Robertson is a Kiwi, so the locals weren’t completely disappointed
- Great Britain narrowly missed out on a podium finish, finishing fourth overall
Canada claimed their first ever SailGP event victory as they edged out home favorites New Zealand and leaders Australia in the final race in Christchurch.
Their skipper Phil Robertson hails from New Zealand and apologized to his countrymen as his adopted team had just crossed the line in first place.
The result still left Australia and New Zealand in a strong position to reach a winner-take-all grand final at the final 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 best tradition.
France’s Quentin Delapierre will head into the Golden Gate City just a solitary point ahead of Sir Ben Ainslie’s British crew in the overall standings – and someone will be bitterly disappointed.
Britain enjoyed a steady weekend here until sixth in the fleet’s fifth race, after a sub-par start, saw them fall behind the Canadians in the standings.
“We didn’t do a good enough job of executing the kickoffs today,” Ainslie said. ‘We were actually in pretty good positions in both starts, but we didn’t quite make it.
‘We worked with the French in that final start that didn’t go our way. The team did a great job to get out, but we didn’t do enough to get into the race for the podium, which was frustrating.
‘But overall, getting a point against France [in the overall standings] was a very important trip to San Francisco.’
SailGP’s unique format means the entire 11-race season will come down to the final three-boat race in San Francisco, after the nine-race field is whittled down over the weekend.
‘It’s been a while since we’ve won one of these events,’ added Ainslie. ‘We haven’t won a tournament all season and if there’s time for it, it will be in the final.’
Robertson’s Canadian boat faced Peter Burling’s Kiwis and a partisan home support in Lyttelton Harbor after Australia fell behind early.
Despite falling off the foil and also being penalized at one stage for straying off track, the Canadians had more speed than their rivals.
Having lost the final races in Bermuda and Chicago earlier in the season, Robertson was delighted to “get the monkey off his shoulder”.
1. Australia 84 points
2. New Zealand 73 points
3. France 69 points
4. Great Britain 68 points
5. Denmark 60 points
6. Canada 59 points
7. United States of America 57 points
8. Switzerland 29 points
9. Spain 29 points
He added: ‘It feels pretty good, especially doing it in New Zealand, my home country. I am delighted.
‘It was pretty special for everyone in the team; we had some ups and downs, especially coming out of sydney we had to regroup, so we’re pretty excited to get the win.
‘Winning in New Zealand is great and as a good Canadian would say, “sorry New Zealand!”
The Canadians knocked Britain out of the final in the closing moments of the weekend’s fifth fleet race.
Australia bounced back from a disappointing Saturday to win both fleet races on Sunday to enter the three-boat final.
That means the Aussies are comfortably top of the season standings with 84 points and only an absolute disaster in San Francisco will deny them a place in the grand final.
New Zealand enjoyed a very good weekend here and are second with 73 points, taking home advantage and closing the gap on Australia.
But the cross-Channel showdown between Britain and France will provide the most intrigue in the final race weekend of the SailGP campaign.