Tom Slingsby’s Australia SailGP team delivered under the pressure, winning their home Sail Grand Prix in Sydney to book a place in the Season 2 Grand Final in San Francisco.
Slingsby beat the United States and Spain in the three-team Final on Sydney Harbour on Saturday, leading from the start to finish ahead of Jimmy Spithill’s USA, with Spain of Phil Robertson taking third.
It was Nathan Outteridge’s Japan, sailing in a hybrid boat comprising the hull of Great Britain’s F50 and their own wing and foils, who claimed the opening win on an incredibly windy Day 2 on Sydney Harbour.
Ben Ainslie offered his team’s boat to Japan immediately after the end of racing on Day 1, accepting he was to blame for the incident which caused the front of the right hull of Japan’s F50 to be sliced clean off.
New Zealand looked to have wrapped up the victory in the first fleet race on Saturday (R4) as they started strong, kitted out with the smallest wing and high-speed foils, and dominated much of the race.
But Outteridge managed to catch up with the Kiwis, and pushed them close during the final race to the finish line.
Peter Burling’s team crossed the finish line first, but a penalty awarded to the Kiwis moments before their finish meant Japan were actually race winners in the official rankings.
Outteridge kept up his top-class performance in the following fleet race (R5) – again finishing first – but, despite doing all he could do, the Collision with Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain on Friday meant that the USA and Spain went into the Final ahead of Japan by just a single point.
The Final, winner-takes-all Final race itself was a one-sided affair as Slingsby’s Aussies dominated, gaining the lead early and never conceding it to win on home waters and delight the overjoyed crowds – and move one step closer to retaining the SailGP Championship.
Their 55 points is enough to guarantee the Aussies a spot in the all-important Championship decider in San Francisco.