Phil Robertson’s Team Canada returned from a capsize earlier in the week to win two of three Fleet races on Saturday and take the lead at the United States Sail Grand Prix Chicago on Lake Michigan.
While the first-year Canadian team stunned the nine-boat fleet, Jimmy Spithill’s Team USA had an 8–9–7 aggregate finish in front of home county fans until the last minute.
After Peter Burling thwarted Team New Zealand’s 50-foot catamaran to victory in the first race, Robertson overcame choppy water and unexpected wind shifts from the Navy Pier to win the second and third fleet races. Canada was fourth in the first race.
Canada scored 27 points to lead Sir Ben Ainslie and Britain by one point, with New Zealand four points ahead. Canada’s 50-foot felling catamaran took off during a storm soon after it hit the water for practice on Thursday. There was no injury.
“I think it gives us more confidence that when it comes to race day, we can really push it,” said Robertson, a New Zealander who heads the global league of tech tycoon Larry Ellison. Leaving his third team in as many seasons.
Tom Slingsby and two-time defending champions Australia are fourth with 21 points, followed by Denmark with 18 and Spain with 17.
After two more fleet races on Sunday, the top three teams will advance to the podium race.
Team Canada got off to an impressive start in all three races. Teams had the option of approaching the line within the harbor or beyond the port wall for longer runs.
“We took a while to assess the different start options before the race and it was very clear that you wanted to start outside the wall and come fast,” said Robertson. “We managed to bridge the gap and came out much faster than everyone else.”
Canada finished third at the opening regatta of the season in Bermuda last month.
It was a rough day for flight controllers, who struggled to control their catamaran in the moving wind of Lake Michigan and other unique challenges. This is the first freshwater regatta in three seasons of SailGP.
The American crew fought the most.
“We are really disappointed. Certainly, all fans deserve better,” said Spithill. “The team’s main failure was its inability to execute clean laps. It is that simple. There were so many mistakes and so many mistakes .
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson