USA SailGP Team helmed by Taylor Canfield leads the SailGP...

USA SailGP Team helmed by Taylor Canfield leads the SailGP fleet in fleet race one, with the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge in the distance on Race Day 1 of the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Credit: AP/Simon Bruty

SYDNEY — Australia shared the lead with Denmark after the first day of SailGP racing on Sydney harbor, with the home side in pursuit of its first overall win of the season.

In stronger winds than at any of the seven previous events, Denmark and Tom Slingsby’s Australia finished level after three races. Team New Zealand was in third place.

Looking to recover from a season-worst seventh-place 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,” skipper Tom Slingsby said. “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.”

Three-time defending champion Team Australia went into the race having not won a regatta in Season 4 of the global league that features F50 foiling catamarans. S lingsby admitted his team needed to stop Team New Zealand, which had won three straight and four overall this season.

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

USA SailGP Team helmed by Taylor Canfield leads the SailGP...

USA SailGP Team helmed by Taylor Canfield leads the SailGP fleet in fleet race one on Race Day 1 of the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Credit: AP/Simon Bruty

The Canadian and German boats were at the center of drama on Saturday. Languishing in eighth spot on the rankings ahead of the Sydney races, Canada withdrew after experiencing mechanical issues and finishing last in the first race, reducing the fleet to nine boats.

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 in eighth spot.

Australia dominated race one, foiling on its way to the third mark to take the lead over the American entry. Slingsby quickly turned the race into a runaway and finished 65 seconds ahead of the second-place Danes.

Just after the fourth mark in the second race, Australia made the best of upwind conditions to sail past Denmark and to the top of the chasing pack. Around the penultimate mark, Slingsby’s boat was closing in on the young Spanish team but could not take the lead and had to be content with second.

In this photo provided by SailGP, drivers and athletes for...

In this photo provided by SailGP, drivers and athletes for the Australia Sail Grand Prix pose for a group photo near the Royal Botanic Gardens on Mrs Macquaries Point in Sydney on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, overlooking the Australia Sail Grand Prix racecourse featuring the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Racing takes places in Sydney Harbour this weekend. Three-time SailGP champion and current Season 4 league leader Tom Slingsby, center front, driver of Australia SailGP Team, stands alongside Nathan Outteridge, back from left, interim driver of New Zealand SailGP Team, Sebastien Schneiter, driver of Switzerland SailGP Team, Phil Robertson, driver of Canada SailGP Team, Quentin Delapierre, driver of France SailGP Team, Anna Barth, strategist of Germany SailGP Team, Nicolai Sehested, driver of ROCKWOOL Denmark SailGP Team, Diego Botin, driver of Spain SailGP Team, Anna Weis, strategist of USA SailGP Team, and Giles Scott, driver of Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team. Credit: AP/Bob Martin

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.

“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.”

Top Stories

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME