Peter Burling steered New Zealand to a dominating second straight SailGP regatta victory on Saturday, winning all three fleet races and then routing France and Denmark in the podium race at the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix in Copenhagen.
Two-time defending champion Tom Slingsby and Team Australia missed the podium race for the first time in six regattas spanning two seasons of tech tycoon Larry Ellison’s global league. The Aussies finished fourth overall but still lead the season series by four points over their cross-Tasman Sea rival Kiwis.
Slingsby’s crew had finishes of fifth, third and fourth in the eight-boat fleet, which was missing Sir Ben Ainslie after the British boat sustained serious damage in practice Thursday.
New Zealand won the podium race by a whopping 25 seconds as Burling grabbed a dominating position aboard his foiling 50-foot catamaran and sped away.
“It’s amazing to see the team come together and win four races in a row,” Burling said. “We had some good opportunities at the start of the races, and to be honest the race is easy when you’re leading at mark one. We had all the time and space in the world.”
Due to light wind Friday, the regatta was condensed from five fleet races over two days to three fleet races and the podium race all on Saturday.
The Kiwis struggled to a fifth-place finish during their debut in Season 2, which was puzzling based on their pedigree. Burling and crewmate Blair Tuke have led Emirates Team New Zealand to consecutive victories in the America’s Cup and medaled together in three straight Olympics, including one gold and two silvers.
The New Zealanders now represent a major threat to keeping Slingsby, himself an Olympic gold medalist and former America’s Cup champion, from winning a third straight championship and the accompanying $1 million prize.
Burling said he could count his crew’s mistakes Saturday on one hand.
“That’s pretty unusual in our sport, but we’re really happy on the improvements we’ve made and we’re excited for the rest of the season,” he said.
Burling beat Slingsby in the podium race in Plymouth, England, last month, ending the Aussie skipper’s five-regatta winning streak spanning two seasons.
Slingsby hinted during a pre-regatta news conference that the Kiwis could be coming on.
“We knew New Zealand were lurking. They seem to finally be putting the puzzle pieces together and have become a big threat to us,” Slingsby said.
The United States, helmed by two-time America’s Cup champion Jimmy Spithill, finished fifth overall.
The next regatta is in Saint-Tropez, France, on Sept. 10-11.