Sailing: New Zealand dominate home waters to lead Sail Grand Prix fleet on opening day at Lyttelton

Hometown hero Peter Burling has put New Zealand ahead of their nearest rivals, dominating the opening day of SailGP Christchurch.

With three spots in the world series grand final up for grabs and sitting in second on the overall standings, the home team show their full abilities on familiar Lyttelton Harbour waters, with one race victory and two seconds to lead the fleet.

Back in their own boat, after it was damaged at Singapore, the Kiwis showed their ability to move through the field quickly, without necessarily winning the starts. In the opening race, they lagged in seventh early, but rocketed into second on the second leg and held that position to the finish, behind France.

The French and British posed the biggest threats to New Zealand entering the weekend, and those three teams filled the top positions in the opening gambit, but began to struggle in the next race.

Both found themselves near the back of the pack midway through and while they both improved their positions, they were nowhere near the Kiwis at the end, losing valuable points.

"We've been struggling with the starts a tiny wee bit, finding it hard to get through the traffic at the leeward end, so it was great a good one and be second at mark one," said NZ driver Peter Burling. 

"I think the whole team feels excited for today, and the boat feels nice and easy to sail. That makes you look good tactically as well."

New Zealand were in early trouble for race three, when they suffered a boundary penalty before the start and had to lag at the rear, but as he did in the opening race, Burling brought them through on the second leg.

Canada were probably the biggest surprise of the day, improving from fifth in the opening contest, into third for the second and then capturing the win in the third, heading off the Kiwis.

Sailing: New Zealand dominate home waters to lead Sail Grand Prix fleet on opening day at Lyttelton

"We obviously had a really good comeback again and we feel like we're sailing the boat really well," said Burling.

"The forecast I was looking at had it a flick lighter than this [tomorrow], but I think it's pretty perfect, to be honest. It's perfect conditions."

Two-time defending champions Australia already have their spot booked in the Grand Final, but suffered damage to their boat and trailed home last in the third race. 

Racing was held up several minutes at the start of the programme, after dolphins were sighted near the course and allowed to pass through unmolested.

Overall standings: 1-NZ 28pts, 2-Canada 24pts, 3-GB 23pts, 4-France 21pts, 5-Australia 18pts, 6-USA 16pts, 7-Switzerland 14pts, 8-Denmark 10pts, 9-Spain 8pts

Join us at 3:30pm Sunday for live updates of NZ Sail Grand Prix at Lyttelton

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