NZ SailGP team battling on and off the water


The New Zealand GP team will look to end a frustrating European campaign on a high in Spain this weekend before eyeing an MIQ battle for the next regatta in Sydney.

The powerful team headed by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke lie sixth on the eight-team table after five of the eight regattas.

They have failed to advance their cause through four European events and lament a lost opportunity to make their first podium race at the last event in France.

Tuke insists lessons are being learned and the team remains optimistic of pushing for a palace in the three-team US$1m winner takes all race at the season end, being just five points off third place heading into this regatta in Cadiz.

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“In general we sailed pretty well in St Tropez, it was pleasing to put in some good performances, it really felt like we were mixing it up with the top boats and deserved to be there through sailing well,” Tuke said.

“Looking into this one, everyone is really geared up to finish off our European tour in good fashion.

“A lot of the team have been away representing Aotearoa for six months across this or the Olympics. It’s been a long stint but everyone is looking to finish on a high, and we need to for the overall championship as well.”

The team have MIQ spots for their return next week but the next event in Sydney from December 17-18 raises issues.

Not everyone has MIQ positions booked and the Christmas rush places extra heat on that, but Tuke says the team “is committed” to sailing in Sydney.

The Antipodean albatross features on New Zealand's SailGP boat in Spain this weekend.


The Antipodean albatross features on New Zealand’s SailGP boat in Spain this weekend.

Back to the topic of improving in Cadiz, and Tuke says they will use the three practice sessions to work on their starts, something which let them down badly in the costly final fleet race in France.

The clogged starting line can be chaotic but remains hugely influential in these short races sailed in fast foiling catamarans.

The second season of SailGP is already proving a pressure environment. Bottom of the table France have axed their helmsman Billy Besson, replacing him with young Olympic catamaran sailor Quentin Delapierre.

That hasn’t been lost on the Kiwis.

“It’s a big decision for them. I guess they are looking ahead to the future now,” Tuke said.

“It’s tough, you have the world’s best sailors here, and you’re racing every few weekends, and you get found out when you are not doing things well.

“It’s a tough environment, but it’s a good one to be in if you are wanting that sort of competition and ruthlessness.”

While their sailing hasn’t been consistent, the New Zealand team have the honour of leading the championship’s “Impact League” which tracks the positive actions teams take to reduce their overall carbon footprint and help accelerate inclusivity in sailing.

With the team backed by Live Ocean, the environmental project launched by Burling and Tuke, there’s a real pride in this area.

“That has been really pleasing. With Live Ocean embedded in the team’s DNA, we have put a lot of effort into this,” Tuke said.

“Like racing, it’s a huge team effort, so it’s really pleasing to see how everyone has come together to take on this challenge.

“We’re really trying to be the best we can in every way we operate, pushing ourselves to come up with innovative ways to set up the boat in the most sustainable way, introducing new technologies and using our voice for good to share the message of ocean restoration and protection.”

Burling and Tuke joined New Zealand Ambassador to Spain Nigel Fyfe in Madrid to visit the Secretary of State for Sport Jose Manuel Franco, where they discussed the planned cooperation between New Zealand and Spain for the protection of seabirds in the Southern Ocean.

This week the team is displaying a graphic of the Antipodean albatross on their boat to spotlight the plight of the big seabird which is facing extinction.

Burling and Tuke will also share their story of founding Live Ocean and their first project on racing to save the Antipodean albatross when they are the main speakers at SailGP’s Champions for Change forum in Cadiz ahead of the racing.


Where: Cadiz

When: First day, from 3.30am Sunday (NZT). Second day, from 12.30am Monday. Live coverage of Sky Sport 3.

Points: 1 Japan 37, 2 USA 35, 3 Australia 35, 4 Great Britain 32, 5 Spain 31, 6 New Zealand 30, 7 Denmark 28, 8 France 28.

Impact League points: 1 New Zealand 727, 2 Great Britain 686, 3 Australia 655, 4 France 626, 5 Spain 619, 6 USA 580, 7 Japan 555, 8 Denmark 540.

Next: Sydney, December 17-18; San Francisco, March 27-28.

NZ make strong start to France SailGP.


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