Sailing: New Zealand claim back-to-back SailGP leg victories with win at Abu Dhabi

New Zealand have claimed a second successive leg of SailGP, starting 2024 by winning the Abu Dhabi leg of this year's championship.  

After finishing 2023 with victory at Dubai last month, the Kiwi team, led by Peter Burling, excelled in light winds to hold off both Spain and USA in the three-boat finale.  

The victory sees New Zealand move into second on the SailGP standings, just six points off championship leaders and titleholders Australia.  

New Zealand in action at SailGP Abu Dhabi.
New Zealand in action at SailGP Abu Dhabi. Photo credit: Getty Images

New Zealand's victory was made all the sweeter by Australia missing the podium for the first time this season, giving Burling and his team the chance to cut into their rivals' lead.  

"We've had an awesome time up here in the UAE," he said. "It's been really great for our team to get a couple of wins on the board and really close up that gap to the Australians in front.

"We're just excited to continue building momentum through the season.

"Getting this one on the board in challenging conditions is awesome for the team. I feel like we've been the ones, so many times, who have just missed the final so to finally scrape through to one and claim the win is absolutely awesome."  

After a win and second place finish in races one and three respectively on day one, New Zealand did enough to sneak into the three-boat final race, with back-to-back sixth-placed finishes in races four and five on day two.  

A rapid start off the line in the final was enough for New Zealand, despite a challenge from Spain midway through the race.  

USA offered one final bid on the second-to-last leg, but the Kiwi lead was too great to overcome, as they took bragging rights for the second event in a row.   

SailGP continues from February 24/25, when the teams head to Sydney, before the Kiwis get the chance to stake their claim on home waters at Christchurch on March 23/24. 

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