Sailing: Mixed day for New Zealand on opening day of SailGP Italy

New Zealand’s SailGP team have had a mixed day on the water without two of their America’s Cup stars in the opening day of the Italian event.

With Blair Tuke and Peter Burling back in New Zealand preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, Swiss foiling specialist Arnaud Psarofaghis (helm) and Australian James Wierzbowski (flight controller) have been recruited as cover.

New Zealand was third in race one, last in race two and fifth in the final race of the day to sit fifth overall. There are two more races tomorrow before the top three compete in the grand final in Taranto.

The United States led by Jimmy Spithill and Japan are in pole position with both teams winning 21 points on the first day.

Spithill’s US Team won two of three fleet races, with Japan claiming race two, as light wind conditions in southern Italy meant each F50 only featured three crew rather than the usual five.

“Racing today really highlighted the depth of talent on our team,” said Spithill, a two-time America’s Cup winner. “Sure, I was driving and trimmed the foils through some of the maneuvers, but full credit goes to Paul and Rome [Paul Campbell-James and Rome Kirby]. Rome was, at times, doing three jobs at once.”

Japan was second and third in the other two races.

The United States and Japan are tied with 21 points, with the American boat technically in the lead due to winning the third race.

Spain has 17 points, France 13, New Zealand and Britain 11 each, Denmark nine and defending champion Australia five.

Britain, which won the Bermuda regatta, and New Zealand both have replacement helmsmen for this regatta. Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and former America’s Cup winner, had a previously scheduled commitment. Kiwi skipperBurling, who has won the last two America’s Cup matches, is focusing on defending his Olympic gold medal in the 49er class.

Skipper Tom Slingby’s Australian crew had a problem with the hydraulic system that left the boat dead in the water and unable to finish the first race. They had won four of the five fleet races in the Bermuda regatta before finishing second to Ainslie in the podium race. The Aussies also took the $1 million, winner-take-all prize in the inaugural 2019 season.

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