Sailing: New Zealand well placed after opening day of racing at Sail GP Abu Dhabi

Peter Burling's New Zealand team sit second after the opening day of racing at SailGP Abu Dhabi.

With most teams experiencing wildly fluctuating fortunes and struggling to foil in light winds, the Kiwis led all the way to win the first of three races, but tumbled to last in the next outing.

They consolidated their position with second in the final event to finish one point behind Spain.

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

"It was a pretty tough day for anyone to be consistent, but we're really happy to come away right in the hunt," reflected team coach Ray Davies.

A new course configuration had the fleet sailing across the wind twice, slalom-style, before resorting to a more traditional upwind-downwind direction. 

NZ driver Burling admits he's not a fan of the newlook course, but adapted better than most in the conditions.

 "I don’t think any of the athletes will tell you we like this double reach configuration," he said. "When you get to mark one, that’s you for the race, so it puts a huge amount of pressure on the start.

"We probably took a bit too much risk in that second race, hanging at the back looking for a gap to open up. Still, good to get a couple of strong starts and results on the board, and plenty to review heading into day two."

The Kiwis weren't the only ones struggling for consistency. The Spanish finished last in the opening race, but bounced back with wins in the next two for their overnight lead.

Reigning champions Australia finished second in the first contest, but second to last - ahead of New Zealand - in the second, before a midfleet performance in race three and overall for the day.

In third overall, United States began day with ninth, but subsequently rallied for second and third.

"It was really a day where, if you're not first, you're last," confirmed Davies. "Looking at the leaderboard, the first two boats overall each had a first and a 10th.

"It shows just how tricky it is out here.

“We're pretty happy with day one here in Abu Dhabi and some good gains heading into tomorrow. We're looking at very similar conditions - not much over 7-8 knots, so once again, it will be all about getting off the line well."

Two more fleet races will be followed by the three-boat final on day two, with New Zealand trying to overhaul Denmark for second in the championship standings.

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