19 March 2023
Canada’s historic win in Christchurch will provide a “big morale boost” to the team after the “emotional experience” of Sydney, driver Phil Robertson has said.
The Canadians went head-to-head against home favourites New Zealand and season leaders Australia on the waters of Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour in a race packed with close crosses and dramatic moments. Despite falling off the foils and even picking up a boundary penalty, it was Robertson’s team that came out on top, bursting across the finish line ahead of the Kiwis.
Speaking after racing, Robertson said the historic win meant even more coming off the back of an ‘emotional’ event in Sydney. Canada’s wing and brand new F50 sustained significant damage in an extreme weather incident shortly after racing on the first day.
While the crew had a tough time as a result of the incident, the adversity “brought the team together”.
“That’s massive for any team sport, so we’re a tight group now and to get a win like that is pretty special,” he said.
Canada’s first event win comes after the team lost out in the Finals of Bermuda and Chicago at the beginning of the season. Since then, Canada has finished in the mid-to-bottom fleet.
Robertson said he was “stoked” to get “the monkey” of an event win off their back, adding, “there’s not many teams that have got a SailGP win”.
Strategist Isabella Bertold added: “We’ve been working so hard behind the scenes and for it all to come together and cross the finish line was absolutely incredible.”
Robertson dissected the moment Canada picked up a boundary penalty on the sixth leg of the race. It came soon after New Zealand briefly took the lead on the fifth leg of the race and could have opened the door for a second Kiwi overtake. However, the penalty cleared quickly, allowing Canada to recover and regain speed on the approach to the finish line.
“In hindsight, we could have done a slightly better job of staying on front – we let them into the game, but managed to seal it at the top.”
He reflected on the ‘little error’, estimating that the boundary infringement ‘must only have been a couple of inches’.
“I actually thought we would have been fine, so I was surprised to hear we got a penalty, but it is what it is, and it actually probably set us up alright for the rest of the race,” he added.
Canada’s triumph now means a total of five teams have won an event in Season 3, with Canada joining Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States.
In front of SailGP’s biggest sell-out crowd to date, New Zealand born driver of the Canada team, Phil Robertson, produced a masterful display to lead the final almost from start to finish in a desperate battle with Peter Burling’s home team.
Tom Slingsby and the Australia team had earlier dominated the day’s proceedings to win both fleet races, but couldn’t maintain the momentum in the final to finish a distant third.
With New Zealand all but assured of second place overall, Quentin Delapierre’s France and Sir Ben Ainslie’s Emirates Great Britain are now in a neck and neck battle for the last Grand Final spot in San Francisco after finishing fourth and fifth in the event, now sitting third and fourth in the overall season standings.
Nicolai Sehested’s Denmark SailGP Team presented by ROCKWOOL and United States team driven by Jimmy Spithill saw their chances of a place in the weekend all but evaporate with a pair of disappointing weekend performances.
For Robertson it was a first ever SailGP event win, coming in his third season of competition, and the first for the Canada SailGP Team in its debut season.
Robertson said: “It’s huge for the team and it will give us a big morale boost. We actually had a bit of a tough time these last few weeks after the Sydney event and I think the good thing that it’s done is it’s brought the team together and that’s massive for any team in sport. We’re a tight group now and to get a win like that is pretty special. I’m stoked to get the win in New Zealand, that’s awesome and as a good Canadian would say, sorry, New Zealand.”
With 15,000 fans packing into the soldout race village across the weekend it was nearly a dream result for Burling at his home event, as he had led the standings heading into the second day.
Burling said: “The support this weekend has been just amazing. Seeing so many people in the grandstand and throughout the corporate hospitality, but not only that – out on the water and across every vantage point around, it seems like Christchurch got behind this event like we never thought possible. I think 90 per cent of people I’ve talked to have said ‘at least you beat the Aussies’ and for us it’s great for the overall season leaderboard as well by getting a few more on France and Great Britain.”
Slingsby said despite his rivalry with Burling that has lasted much of the season, he exacted no satisfaction from seeing New Zealand lose the final.
“Honestly it doesn’t bother me in any way, I almost wish they did win so all the spectators would be jumping around and cheering but really we don’t care what the positions are we only look at ourselves. We’re now heading into San Francisco with an 11 point lead. We’ve just got to focus on the final now.”
Sebastien Schneiter’s Switzerland pulled itself off the bottom of the season standings with a seventh place finish, while Diego Botin’s Spain had a tough event to finish in ninth.
Alison Adams, Chief Executive, ChristchurchNZ said: “We work on bringing a lot of major events to Ōtautahi Christchurch, but I can’t think of one where the authentic commitment to environmental and social good runs deeper than SailGP. It’s a fabulous match for what we’re trying to do as a city.”
Season 3 of SailGP’s global championship concludes on the iconic waters of San Francisco Bay at the next event, the Mubadala SailGP Season 3 Grand Final on 6 & 7 May 2023.
1 // Canada // 10 points
2 // New Zealand // 9 points
3 // Australia // 8 points
4 // Great Britain // 7 points
5 // France // 6 points
6 // United States // 5 points
7 // Switzerland // 4 points
8 // Denmark // 3 points
9 // Spain // 2 points
1 // Australia // 84 points
2 // New Zealand // 73 points
3 // France // 69 points
4 // Great Britain // 68 points
5 // Denmark // 60 points
6 // Canada // 59 points
7 // United States // 57 points
8 // Switzerland // 29 points
9 // Spain // 29 points
*United States penalised 4 season points
*New Zealand penalised 4 season points
*Switzerland penalised 2 season points
*Spain penalised 2 season points