Emirates GBR SailGP Team pushing the learning curve despite limited time on the water

The Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team is pushing the learning curve despite limited time on the water ahead of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix this weekend. SailGP returns to Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbour in Christchurch for the world’s most exciting racing on water on 23 – 24 March.

The Christchurch event follows the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in February, where Emirates GBR experienced difficult starts and finished in seventh place. The event in Sydney was only the second for Emirates GBR Driver Giles Scott, who made his debut at the Abu Dhabi SailGP in January after taking over the role from Sir Ben Ainslie. The team left that event in sixth place on the Season 4 leaderboard, tied on 45 points with France and United States.

Speaking at the pre-event press conference, Emirates GBR Driver Giles Scott said: “I may be reasonably chilled out off the water but I’ve got a competitive streak in me – don’t worry about that. We want to win and I think it’s fair to say that we’re disappointed with where we are on the ladder. Going into Sydney it felt like my first proper SailGP event as Abu Dhabi was such light winds. Time on the water is super important and I’m trying to fast track my learnings to get the team where it deserves to be.”

After training time on Thursday was limited to less than an hour for Emirates GBR due to weather conditions and mammals spotted on the course, the team was in unfamiliar territory when practice racing took place on Friday in tricky conditions. It was incredibly fast and close racing in high winds during the practice session, and in the third and final race of the day Emirates GBR narrowly avoided a catastrophe after spotting Spain at the last-minute. Emirates GBR Driver Giles Scott managed to turn away, but the two F50s made contact – causing damage to the two boats. As it was Emirates GBR who needed to keep clear of Spain at the time, the SailGP umpires handed the British team an eight-point event penalty, and also deducted four season points. This means Emirates GBR drops one place down the season leaderboard to seventh.

Earlier in the day, Emirates GBR Strategist Hannah Mills had to be taken off the F50 after slipping during training laps just before practice racing. Reserve Sailor Hannah Diamond took her place on-board and was straight into action. Mills sustained minor injuries of grazes and bruising and will return to the Emirates GBR F50 for official racing on Saturday.

Emirates GBR Driver Giles Scott said: “We had an incident with the Spanish who we crossed on starboard, tacked and then didn’t pick up that they had tacked back on to starboard as they were in a blind spot. We ended up having what was fortunately quite a light coming together with them. We will have to deal with some penalty points both for the event and the season, which is a real hit for the team, but tomorrow is a new day and we will come back out and see what the weekend holds.”

The Christchurch event began on Thursday with an official Pōwhiri at Rāpaki marae which saw SailGP athletes and staff welcomed by Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke. A Pōwhiri is a Māori welcoming ceremony which involves a formal speech, singing and food.

Since arriving in Christchurch, Emirates GBR has hosted more than 350 students to its base for climate education lessons with its charity partner Protect Our Future. Protect Our Future provides world-class climate education resources that are free to use and available globally online. The platform uses the inspiration of athletes and the global community of sport to empower young people with the knowledge to take climate action and drive behavioural change, therefore enabling schools to become climate hubs.

The ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix kicks off in Christchurch Saturday with three fleet races, followed by two more fleet races on Sunday before the three-boat event final. UK viewers can watch the action on a delayed broadcast on ITV4 at 01:00 GMT on 24 and 25 March.

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