SINGAPORE — The shorelines of East Coast Park came alive on Sunday (15 January) as bright and speedy catamarans powered around the seas for the inaugural Singapore leg of the Sail Grand Prix series.
And it culminated with a champion team that overcame a points-deduction penalty even before the races began to seal a superb weekend for sailing.
New Zealand suffered a four-point deduction when they collided with the United States team during the practice rounds on Thursday, but were wildly cheering a dominant victory in the match-race final as they stormed past Denmark and Australia to clinch the Singapore SailGP title.
"Obviously the points deduction made things harder, and it was a little frustrating," said team captain Peter Burling.
"But for us to be able to bounce back, we needed to minimise the damage that could result here, and we've definitely done that. That just shows you how strong our team is."
It was indeed a stirring triumph under pressure, as New Zealand had only four races over the weekend to overcome the points penalty. However, they set the tone for the weekend when they won the first race on Saturday and then accumulated enough points in the next three races to qualify for the match-race final in second spot behind Denmark.
Burling's crew saved their best performance for the final - raced by only the top three teams from the nine-team fleet - as they sped away from Denmark and Australia in rainy and windy conditions to take the hard-earned title.
New Zealand's victory narrowed the gap between themselves (59 points) and Australia (68 points) atop the 2022/23 SailGP Championship leaderboard, with two races left to ensure they qualify for the grand final in May as one of the top three teams overall.
"This weekend really helps," Burling said. "To be able to step out a little bit against the chasing pack of France and Great Britain, even with the penalty points we had, it was something we're definitely pleased about."
Putting Singapore on the global map
Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and for Culture, Community and Youth, told reporters that sports events such as the SailGP are key in putting Singapore on the global map, as the city-state seeks to revive its tourism industry following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions last year.
"We're looking at new, creative ways to anchor Singapore as a hub for tourism, for sports and for leisure. SailGP is a harbinger of what Singapore tourism has to offer," he said.
"SailGP allows for the world to see Singapore in a very different light. We're just at the start of our partnership, and we cannot wait to see how SailGP will evolve with time to be a wonderful and engaging product."
The SailGP series will move on to Sydney for the Australian leg next month, and Christchurch for the New Zealand leg in March. The top three teams on the overall standings after the New Zealand leg will qualify for the grand final in San Francisco in May.
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