SYDNEY (AP) — Australia increased its lead at the top of the SailGP series standings and guaranteed its place in the final in San Francisco in March after beating the United States and Spain in the three-boat final on Sydney Harbor on Saturday.
There was little between Australia and the U.S. at the start, but the home boat quickly surged away to win by 38.5 seconds, with Spain in third.
The victory lifted Australia’s season point score to 55, ahead of the U.S. (53) with both teams now certain to finish in the top three of the overall series.
Australia finished fourth and second in Saturday’s two remaining fleet races to finish on 28 points, ahead of overnight leader Spain and the U.S. on 27.
The hard-luck story of the day was Japan, skippered by Australian Nathan Outteridge. After its boat was damaged in a collision with the Britain team in the pre-start Friday, Japan won both of Saturday’s fleet races on a hybrid boat made up their own foils and the base of the Britain boat.
But Japan finished fourth, one place out a position in the Sydney final.
However, Japan is almost certain to finish in the top three because it has moved eight points clear of Spain and nine ahead of New Zealand in the overall standings.
It was a seventh win in eight SailGP finals for Australia driver Tom Slingsby. Compatriot and U.S. driver Jimmy Spithill was left waiting for his first after coming up short in five finals.
“We made it tough for ourselves at times but the way we bounced back was lethal,” Slingsby said.
Spithill said he was pleased to have secured his spot for the San Francisco finals.
“It’s great, I mean for Tom, it’s his to lose now. It’s great to be the underdog going into San Francisco, trust me, that’s the great thing about sport, the favorites don’t always win” Spithill said. “The Aussies are still the benchmark team, they just push harder, we still have work to do, we have bridged that gap to them a little bit but we need more.”
Outteridge said Saturday’s result was a missed opportunity.
“I would have loved to have been in that final with Jimmy and Tom and see how we could have stacked up against each other in a three-boat race,” Outteridge said. “I guess we will all have to keep waiting for that. It says a lot about Australian sailors that the top three championship teams are driven by Australians, we are dominating SailGP at the moment.”
Earlier in the day, it was announced that Japan would use a hybrid boat after its F50 catamaran sustained serious damage in a collision with Britain on Friday.
The collision occurred at the pre-start of the third and final fleet race. It resulted in the front of the right hull of Japan’s F50 being sliced off.
Britain skipper Ben Ainslie offered his team’s boat to Japan immediately after the end of racing on Day 1, accepting he was to blame for the incident. Britain withdrew from the second day in Sydney, meaning there were just seven teams contesting the last two fleet races.
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