Two-time defending champions Team Australia are in third place behind surprise leaders Team Canada after the first three fleet races of SailGP’s season-opening regatta in Bermuda.
Kiwi Phil Robertson skippered newcomer Team Canada’s red-and-white foiling catamaran to finishes of second, first and fifth in the nine-boat fleet on the turquoise waters of the Great Sound to lead from Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie 25 points to 23.
Team Australia were third with 21 points despite having just one top-three finish. France were fourth with 20 points and Team USA fifth with 16.
Watch the latest sport on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>
Robertson took over the Canadian team after he was fired by Team Spain on the eve of the Season 2 finale in San Francisco in late March.
“The team’s excited but the challenge for us is to try and keep expectations low because the conditions are ideal for any of these boats so anything can happen tomorrow,” said Robertson, who is with his third team in as many seasons.
“But ultimately you have to be extremely happy with the day we had. In tight situations, we always came out on top and did some great things on the racecourse.”
Slingsby said he was impressed with Robertson.
“It’s going to be exciting to see what he can do,” said Slingsby, who claimed SailGP’s $US1 million, winner-take-all prize in each of the first two seasons.
“He’s got a new team, it’s privately funded, the owner loves him and he’s under no pressure. The standard has gone up a level and whoever can find some consistency in this field will do extremely well.”
Natasha Bryant, 21, debuted in racing on board the Australian F50, seamlessly jumping into a tactician role.
“Being onboard during racing and knowing that my family was watching back home in Australia was pretty special,” said Bryant.
“There were a few big takeaways from racing like the importance of rounding marks in the clean air and speed that we can take into the next day of racing.”
Ainslie was leading Robertson approaching the fourth gate in Race 2 but had a poor rounding and slowed dramatically, allowing Canada to sail into the lead. Ainslie also had a penalty near the finish and ended up eighth.
“It’s not really a surprise to see the previous top teams like Australia down the back because the racing is so tight and to be honest the standard is so high,” Ainslie said.
“We are all top teams now. There’s going to be lots of ups and downs and consistency is going to win out and that’s what we are vying for.”