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Slingsby steers Flying Roo into lead as Aussies search first SailGP win of Season 4 | Sports activities

Three-time defending SailGP champion Tom Slingsby skippered Team Australia into the lead of the Spain Sail Grand Prix Cádiz on Saturday, finishing well ahead of his top rivals as he pursues his first victory of Season 4.

Slingsby steered the Flying Roo foiling catamaran to finishes of 5-2-1 to take a one-point lead over Nicolai Sehested’s ROCKWOOL Denmark, with Spain’s Diego Botin six points back in third. Botin, who won in Los Angeles in late July, thrilled the home crowd with a victory in the first race.

Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie had a rough start in his pursuit of a third straight regatta victory, going 8-10-6 to settle into ninth in the 10-boat fleet. Peter Burling and Team New Zealand returned to the racecourse with a new wingsail but struggled with finishes of 4-5-8 to sit in sixth place, nine points off the lead.

Jimmy Spithill’s Team USA is fourth, seven points off the lead, after going 2-3-10. Taylor Canfield is filling at flight controller for Hans Henken, who was seriously injured three weeks ago when the catamaran crashed hard off its foils.

“We’re stoked with today, and it’s definitely a confidence booster going into tomorrow, considering we are expecting similar light air conditions,” said Slingsby, an Olympic gold medalist and former America’s Cup champion.

The Aussies came into the regatta with a six-point lead over Ainslie and Botin in the season standings despite not having won yet this season. Their last victory was in the $1 million, winner-take-all grand finale of Season 3 in May in San Francisco, the third straight time they clinched the championship of tech billionaire Larry Ellison’s global league.

“It’s been quite frustrating,” Slingsby said. “Although we have been consistent and sailed well, we haven’t managed to get a win this season. I’ve got to do everything I can to secure this win for the team.”

This is the second anniversary of SailGP’s Women’s Pathway Program and strategist Nina Curtis rejoined the Aussie crew after taking maternity leave. She was the first woman to win a SailGP regatta when the Aussies were victorious in Cádiz in 2021.

“It’s amazing to see how much the program has developed in two years and the role it has played in inspiring young female sailors across Australia,” said Curtis, an Olympic silver medalist and ocean racer. “It’s a pretty special moment for me to be back racing here with the team, and now having my own daughter Dylan watch on.”

The Kiwis were back on the water for the first time since their $1 million wingsail suddenly shattered and fell into the Mediterranean just minutes after they finished racing in the opening day of the France Sail Grand Prix in Saint-Tropez on Sept. 9. They were unable to race in the following regatta at Taranto, Italy, and were awarded fifth place.

“We definitely had a pretty tough day where we never quite found our groove fully,” said Burling, the two-time reigning America’s Cup champion and a three-time Olympic medalist. “It’s our first day racing in a while, so we can go away, tidy that up and come out swinging tomorrow.”

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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