ZB ZB
Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Listen to NAME OF STATION
Up next
Listen live on
ZB

'Ridiculously harsh' penalty system causes SailGP shakeup

Author
Christopher Reive,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 May 2024, 4:30pm

'Ridiculously harsh' penalty system causes SailGP shakeup

Author
Christopher Reive,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 May 2024, 4:30pm

Harsh, but clear.

That was the evaluation of the SailGP penalty points system from New Zealand driver Peter Burling, who goes into this week’s event in Bermuda at the helm of the league’s top team.

Following their win in Christchurch in March, the Black Foils have won three of the past four events to hold a comfortable nine-point lead at the top of the leaderboard. But it wasn’t just their win that got them there.

Australia were penalised eight points on the season leaderboard after they crashed into a race mark during the first race of the Christchurch event. They sustained heavy damage to their F50 foiling catamaran and were unable to sail in the rest of the event, and the points deduction saw them lose their place at the top of the standings.

While eight points is a big deduction, Burling told the Herald the framework around penalty points was very clear.

“I’ve always said that the collision penalty points are ridiculously harsh in SailGP,” Burling said.

“They’re built that way because it’s obviously very challenging for the league to keep the boats in the condition they are in if they come together. It’s a very clear policy though, just a very harsh policy.”

It was a difficult position for Australian driver Tom Slingsby to have found himself in, as he was sailing an aggressive line to try and get on the inside of Canada and New Zealand, but found themselves wedged between their opponents and the race mark as boundary restrictions meant Canada and New Zealand had right of way. In order to avoid T-Boning the Canadian boat at pace, Slingsby deliberately turned into the mark.

In doing so, Australia broke SailGP rule 57, which penalises teams for causing damage to their own or other F50s by reckless sailing and the points deduction increases depending on the damage to the vessel.

The Australian SailGP Team suffered damage to their boat after crashing into a race marker in Christchurch. Photo / Ricardo Pinto, SailGP
The Australian SailGP Team suffered damage to their boat after crashing into a race marker in Christchurch. Photo / Ricardo Pinto, SailGP

“With the policy being as clear as it is, there’s no real question what penalty points Australia should have been awarded for the incident. I think more the question is [around] how harsh that policy is that everyone gets dished out points from,” Burling said.

“We’ve been the meat in the sandwich once before. Our first San Francisco event, where you’re taking what you think is the lowest risk option but end up sandwiched between two boats and end up in almost a cone where you can’t get out.”

The Australian crash was one of several in an eventful weekend in Christchurch, with Great Britain and Denmark each docked four points from their season tally for crashes.

“It was a bit of a weird event having three decent crashes, but it’s something I think was just the culmination of people having not raced in strong conditions for a long time,” Burling reflected.

Despite their commanding lead at the top of the table, Burling and the Black Foils weren’t planning on using their four remaining regattas simply as testing grounds on which to try new things in preparation for the Grand Final.

While they’re in a strong position to be among the three tests contesting that race to try and win the overall prize – and to get the more minor prize of top point scorers – they have already seen this season how quickly the tables can turn.

“It’s a bit weird to be honest to know we’ve got a good lead at the top of the leaderboard, but we’d definitely prefer to be chased than doing the chasing,” Burling said.

“You look back through our season with missing the second day of the Saint Tropez event with our wing failure, then not being able to compete at the next event due to spares not arriving in time, if you said back then we’d be top of the leaderboard by now I’d probably laugh.”

Remaining SailGP season four events

Bermuda: May 5-6

Halifax: June 2-3

New York: June 23-24

San Francisco: July 14-15

Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.

This article was originally published on the NZ Herald here.

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you