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New Zealand have made a splash in their second full season of SailGP.
A crucial third place in the third and final race of the opening day of the San Francisco SailGP regatta has strengthened New Zealand’s claims for a place in the grand final.
Australian Tom Slingsby flexed his muscles with two wins and a third on Sunday (NZT) to take control of the 11th and final regatta of the third season.
Two-time champions Australia have already qualified for the grand final and the real intrigue is about who will join them in that three-boat US$1m winner-takes-all race.
New Zealand entered this last regatta in second place overall but still vulnerable to France and fourth-placed Great Britain.
On a topsy-turvy day the Kiwis were hampered by poor starts but did enough to register 4, 7, 3 results and stay in charge of their own destiny.
Ben Ainslie’s British team were the big movers, and a win and two seconds have them ready to eliminate France from those grand final calculations.
The French had a shocker, going 6, 8, 6 and if the grand final was raced right now, the British would claim the third position on the start line.
France will need to make some major improvements over the last two fleet races on Monday to get back into that grand final frame.
But the Kiwis will also need to make some improvements if they are to somehow win the big money race.
Importantly they stayed out of trouble and managed to cover the French in their private battle.
But they didn’t have the boat speed or consistency of the Australians and British.
Finding an extra gear on Monday is their target now.
SailGP Grand Final Weekend, San Francisco
5 fleet races (3 Sunday, 2 Monday)
Race 1: 1 Australia, 2 Gt Britain, 3 Switzerland, 4 NZ, 5 Denmark, 6 France, 7 US, 8 Canada, 9 Spain
Race 2: 1 Great Britain, 2 Canada, 3 Australia, 4 US, 5 Switzerland, 6 Denmark, 7 NZ, 8 France, 9 Spain
Race 3: 1 Australia, 2 Great Britain, 3 NZ, 4 Canada, 5 Denmark, 6 France, 7 US, 8 Spain, 9 Switzerland.
San Francisco points after 3 of 5 races: 1 Australia 28, 2 Great Britain 28, 3 NZ 19, 4 Denmark 18, 5 Canada 18, 6 Switzerland 16, 7 US 15, 8 France 13, 9 Spain 7.
Season 3 points heading into San Fran: Australia 84, New Zealand 73, France 69, Great Britain 68, Denmark 60, Canada 59, USA 57, Switzerland 29, Spain 29.
Top 3 teams on season standings qualify for US$1m winner-takes-all grand final.