Two-time defending SailGP champion Tom Slingsby and Team Australia used two good starts in fickle light wind to finish second in both races Saturday and take the lead in the Singapore Sail Grand Prix.
The consistent performance in conditions that have been the Aussies’ weakness gave them a four-point lead over Britain and Canada, with the United States and Denmark another point back.
After Sunday’s fleet races, the top three boats will advance to the podium race. The schedule on Saturday was cut from three races to two due to the light winds. The 50-foot foiling catamarans used their largest wing sails and were crewed by four sailors instead of six. Still, the wind was so weak that the boats rarely could pop up on their foils.
Two-time defending America’s Cup champion Peter Burling skippered New Zealand to victory in the first race and Jimmy Spithill, a two-time America’s Cup champion, steered the United States to victory in the second race. New Zealand started this regatta with a four-point penalty after a collision with the United States in practice on Thursday and will be penalized two points in the season standings in tech tycoon Larry Ellison's global league.
“It’s tough out there, but fortunately for us, two good starts saved us,” said Slingsby, who is chasing his third straight season championship and the accompanying $1 million prize. “It was really tricky conditions. We actually let a couple of positions go in both races. But we’re stoked. We’re so happy to come away with two seconds in conditions like that. It puts us in the hunt tomorrow. But anything can happen out here, like if we have two bad starts tomorrow, we won’t make the final, so we’ve just got to focus on that.”
Slingsby is an Olympic gold medalist and former America’s Cup champion who will sail with the New York Yacht Club’s American Magic in the 2024 America’s Cup.
He knew this could be a tough regatta due to the light wind.
“For sure, light air is an issue for us,” Slingsby said. “We are inconsistent. We can go out there and lead the day like we did today and we can go out there and end up last, like we did in Dubai. We’re hard to predict, the Aussies, I think.”
Even though they were eighth in the nine-boat fleet after the first day of the Dubai regatta two months ago, the Aussies squeaked into the podium race after New Zealand was penalized for a collision, and then sailed to victory after British skipper Sir Ben Ainslie had a poor maneuver at the last mark.
Australia sits atop the season standings with 60 points, followed by New Zealand with 51, France 50 and Britain 48. There are three regattas left and the top three teams will advance to the $1 million, winner-take-all Grand Final at the end of the San Francisco regatta May 6-7.
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