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Christchurch voted SailGP's best location ahead of March return

Author
Christopher Reive,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Jan 2024, 1:22pm

Christchurch voted SailGP's best location ahead of March return

Author
Christopher Reive,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Jan 2024, 1:22pm

When SailGP returns to Christchurch in March, it might not just be the Kiwi crew who look forward to getting back onto the waters of Lyttelton Harbour. 

Christchurch was a late replacement on the 2024 calendar for the global foiling league after a successful debut regatta in 2023. 

The league’s commitment to hosting events in New Zealand was supposed to see them alternate between Christchurch and Auckland over a four-year span. However, Auckland was deemed unsuited to hosting this year’s event and a return to Christchurch was navigated. 

It will be a popular decision among the fleet as Christchurch was voted the league’s best location in an anonymous end-of-year athletes’ poll. Following the final regatta of 2023 in Dubai, all 10 teams were invited to vote in the poll which covered a wide range of topics. 

“That was one of the best venues this series has raced on,” Team Canada’s Kiwi driver Phil Robertson said ahead of the Dubai event. “We had perfect conditions, flat water and a lovely time.” 

Robertson led the Canadians to their maiden event win at Christchurch, beating New Zealand and Australia in the final. 

Phil Robertson led Canada to its maiden SailGP event win in Christchurch. Photo: Ricardo Pinto/SailGPPhil Robertson led Canada to its maiden SailGP event win in Christchurch. Photo: Ricardo Pinto/SailGP 

While it was a late replacement, the 2024 event in Christchurch will be a bit different, with the cranes used to lift the boats in and out of the water being relocated to allow more room for fans. 

“We’re going to move the location of the cranes and create spectator viewing areas there so we’re able to essentially double the capacity of the grandstand which is great. The grandstand viewing was some of the best viewing that people had,” SailGP chief executive Sir Russell Coutts told the Herald after confirming Christchurch as the host. 

“People enjoyed it [in 2023] and I think even if we get the southerly wind direction, it’ll be colder, but the way the racecourse sets out, it would be a great racecourse. If it was a windy southerly it would be great – it’ll be colder, of course, the people in the stands would have to dress for it, but it would be a great racing event that’s for sure.” 

Both Robertson and Coutts appeared in the results of the athletes’ poll. Robertson and his Canadian team featured several times, albeit not in overly flattering categories. Robertson was voted as the league’s most aggressive driver, while Canada was voted as the team most likely to cause a crash and the team sailors would least like to sail for. Coutts was voted as the sailor athletes would most like to see enter the league. 

SailGP chief executive Sir Russell Coutts. Photo: Adam Warner/SailGPSailGP chief executive Sir Russell Coutts. Photo: Adam Warner/SailGP 

Other awards saw members of Great Britain claim the titles of biggest trash-talker [Sir Ben Ainslie] and best strategist [Hannah Mills], Australian wing trimmer Kyle Langford was voted most under-rated athlete, the US were voted as the team with the worst comms, while Cadiz [Spain] was considered to have the best crowds. 

In terms of titles decided on the water, the New Zealand SailGP Team have been among the cleanest sailors through season four so far. The new campaign, which began in Chicago last June and ends in San Francisco in July, has seen six of the 13 scheduled events completed and the Kiwis are the third-least penalised so far. 

The Kiwis, who have committed just eight fouls, trail only Great Britain [four] and Denmark [three] in that category. The Kiwis have been among the more active users of the protest button, however, appealing for other teams to be penalised for a foul against them 22 times. Only the US [34] and Canada [23] have made more protests. 

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

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