Peter Burling’s New Zealand SailGP team clinched a stunning come-from-behind victory to win the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix in the most hotly contested final in SailGP history.
In a thrilling, winner-takes-all final race, the lead changed constantly and at the finish, all three finalists – New Zealand, Canada and Australia – were side by side, meters from both the shoreline and the finish line and no one was clear who had taken the win.
Phil Robertson’s Canada SailGP team appeared to have the upper hand heading into the final mark as it surged ahead in front of a sold-out Dubai crowd.
Robertson was penalised for not providing Australia – driven by Jimmy Spithill who was standing in for regular driver Tom Slingsby – with enough space to get around the final mark, and despite crossing the line first, the victory went to New Zealand who snuck in at the very last minute.
It was a fitting finish to a drama-filled day on the waters of Mina Rashid. An event win for the adopted home team, Ben Ainslie’s Emirates GBR, in the opening race of the day meant they were well on their way to booking a place in the final. However, at the beginning of race five Emirates GBR had to leave the race course early.
In an aggressive move, new USA SailGP team driver Taylor Canfield – two-time world match racing tour champion – held out arguably one of the best athletes in the sport at the start.
Canfield closed the gap at the end of the start line on Emirates GBR and, while Ainslie made it through, he was quickly disqualified by the umpire for the maneuver.
“We had a good first race. The team did a great job and that second start we were in pole position and it was really 50-50 with the USA. It was a tough call for us but that’s sport. However, it has been really exciting to be racing more in the Middle East, now in Dubai and in Abu Dhabi in the new year. Really excited about that upcoming race,” said Ainslie.
Another big upset was with Quentin Delapierre’s France SailGP Team. Having placed second in two of the races from the weekend, they were almost certain to line up in the Grand Final. Racing for his home country Australia for the first time since 2001, Spithill, in the final minutes of the race, managed to secure a place in the final.
New Zealand driver Peter Burling said: “With the collapse of our wing, we feel like we missed two events of the European leg so it’s really hard to get back into the league. I’m proud of the team for getting this wing back up and carrying on. We’ve had an awesome event here in Dubai. It’s great to get a win on the board for our team! We’ll be back here, just down the road, in a month’s time heading to Abu Dhabi. I’m really excited about this phase.”
Fans don’t have long to wait for the SailGP battle. The next stop is in a month’s time when the league remains in the UAE and goes to Abu Dhabi for the first time in the seventh event of Season 4.
The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand takes place from January 13-14.
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