The Australia SailGP Team booked their place in the Season 2 winner-takes-all Grand Final with one event to spare by winning their home Sail Grand Prix in Sydney on Saturday.
Tom Slingsby’s team delivered under the pressure, beating the United States and Spain in the three-team Final on Sydney Harbour to claim their fourth event victory of the season, moving onto 55 points to guarantee a spot in the all-important Championship decider in San Francisco.
The USA, Driven by Jimmy Spithill, also qualified for March’s Grand Final on their home waters with their second-place finish, while Japan - who remarkably finished fourth in Sydney despite missing an entire race on Day 1 due to their horror collision with Great Britain - look in a strong position to claim the last spot in the season finale.
It was Nathan Outteridge’s Japan, sailing in a hybrid boat comprising the hull of Great Britain’s F50 and their own wing and foils, who claimed the opening win on an incredibly windy Day 2 on Sydney Harbour.
New Zealand looked to have wrapped up the victory in fleet race four as they started strong, kitted out with the smallest wing and high-speed foils, and dominated much of the race. But Japan managed to catch up with the Kiwis, and pushed them close during the final race to the finish line.
Peter Burling’s team crossed the finish line first, but a penalty awarded to the Kiwis moments before their finish meant Japan were actually crowned victors in the official rankings.
Outteridge kept up his top-class performance in the following fleet race - again finishing first - but, despite doing all he could do, it was not enough as the USA and Spain snuck into the Final ahead of Japan by just a single point.
The Final itself was a one-sided affair as Slingsby’s Aussies dominated when it mattered, gaining the lead early and never conceding it to win on home waters and delight the overjoyed crowds - and move one step closer to retaining the SailGP Championship.