The New Zealand SailGP Team’s supercharged F50 Amokura recorded its fastest ever speed in practice racing today as the team gears up for a thrilling showdown at the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix (August 20-21).
Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Josh Junior and Andy Maloney have all re-joined the New Zealand SailGP Team following their Olympic campaigns, and the full-strength outfit is beginning to find its groove.
Amokura clocked a blistering speed of 92.8 km/h (50.1 knots) in a strong breeze yesterday before extending that to 94.5 km/h (51 knots) today in the top recorded speed of the day across the fleet.
Wing trimmer Blair Tuke said: “It was nice to go over the 50-knot mark which was the first time for us as a group on the F50. The boats are awesome in these conditions, they really do light up and we’ve been loving learning how to really push them.”
It wasn’t quite enough to eclipse the Great Britain SailGP Team’s record-breaking speed of 98.3 km/h (53.1 knots) set yesterday, but Tuke said it was incredibly pleasing to be performing well heading into the first race day tomorrow.
“It was a pretty good day for us today. It’s probably our most complete day as a unit. Things are starting to fall into place now the more time we spend on the boat. We’ve had a good couple of days in the big breeze conditions and today was a little bit lighter with some really good puffs around so you had to keep your wits about you but we were sailing the boat well.”
Driver Peter Burling said: “We were really happy with how we went out there today. It felt like we were getting the boat around the track in good shape.
“We hit our peak speed again today which was cool. Aarhus is the perfect venue for some high speeds, it’s quite puffy and has flat water off the land so it’s been nice to get over 50 knots yesterday and then go a bit quicker today.
“It feels like we’re getting a lot more comfortable on the boat in these stronger wind conditions. It’s going to be completely different conditions for the racing starting tomorrow so it’s about trying to transition into that but it’s nice to be playing at the front of the fleet.”
The weather conditions are expected to be much lighter for racing, forcing a change to the configuration of the F50s. All teams had been sailing with the 18-metre wings and the high-speed daggerboards and rudders this week, but tomorrow the teams will revert to the more all-purpose setup of the 24-metre wing and the light air daggerboards and rudders.
Tuke said the changes would pose a challenge: “It’s probably a bit harder for us as a group because we haven’t done as many days in the different configurations so it’ll take us a little bit longer to find our groove again,” he said.
“The manoeuvres will feel a bit different so we’ll do a good warm up before racing and we’ll be confident that from what we’ve done over the last few days we’ll be able to adjust well with the different setup.”
The ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix sees the return of British sailing icon Sir Ben Ainslie who missed the previous two SailGP events to welcome the arrival of his baby, re-joining a star-studded line-up of drivers including Jimmy Spithill (USA), Nathan Outteridge (Japan) and Tom Slingsby (Australia) among others.
Burling said: “There are heaps of boats performing incredibly well so we need to keep performing and whoever puts their best foot forward is going to win the event. We definitely feel like if we sail really well we’ve got a good shot so that’s all you can ask for.”
Tuke agreed: “The fleet that’s here from all these different nations is right at the top of the game for sailing and as the season goes on everyone is refining things even more and the teams are getting more established which makes the racing even tighter.
“There’s a huge calibre of talent here and it just comes down to who puts together the best two days that will win at the end of this weekend, so for us we’ve just got to focus on ourselves. We took some good steps forward today and we’ve got to keep building on that.”
The Kiwis will be looking for an improved showing in Denmark with the team currently sitting in eighth position on the leaderboard. But with only five points separating them from the first placed Australia SailGP Team, Burling said there was no need for panic at this stage of the competition.
“The leaderboard is super tight at the moment but we’ve only had three events so it’s about making sure we keep progressing. There isn’t too much scoreboard pressure yet but we definitely want to keep improving, putting good points on the board and hopefully that will lead to some good results and we can go from there.”
You can watch all the action from the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix live on Sky Sport from 0100 NZT on Saturday August 21, with day two commencing at 2300.
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