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SailGP will be back on the water this weekend in Cádiz after a major incident.

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This weekend the Sail Grand Prix New Zealand team will make their long-awaited comeback in the stunning, but unpredictable, waters of Cádiz in the Andalucía region of Spain. The event will mark five weeks since the Kiwis raced following the structural collapse of the team’s wingsail on day one in Saint-Tropez.

“It’s the scariest thing I have ever had happen on a boat” says New Zealand wing trimmer and co-CEO Blair Tuke after their 29-metre-high wing broke and tumbled down on top of them. “I’m just so glad everyone was OK”. Watch the teams footage here.

Following three races, the New Zealand’s team, sponsored by Alvarium, sailed past a boat of Kiwi supporters cheering them on from near the edge of the course. Suddenly they hear a pop like explosion that seemingly came out of nowhere and the 29-metre sail above them came tumbling down.

New Zealand driver Peter Burling said: “Thankfully everyone on board is safe - it could have so easily fallen at a different angle, and we were all on the starboard side of the F50 just touching down - something we’ve done 30-40 times today. We just heard an almighty bang and watched it unravel.”

The incident left SailGP engineers from all teams baffled as to what went wrong. The boats are basically the same as one another so it was vital to establish what happened. Video footage and careful analysis later revealed that the wing had come out of alignment.  

The Kiwi team had to miss the next race day and the following event in Rockwell, Italy as they investigated options for the one spare wing to fly to Europe from Warkworth.

“The lack of spares is due to a backlog of damage - first we had the lightning strike in Singapore and then the weather event in Sydney destroyed another wing”. Said Russell Coutts, SailGP CEO  

The wingsail arrived in Cádiz over the weekend where it is now undergoing extensive testing and commissioning by the SailGP tech team. Preparations include the complete install of new hydraulics and electrical systems, as well as commissioning those systems before skinning and branding the equipment. 

The Kiwis were able to maintain their fifth-place in the overall season standings due to movements across the fleet - but commentators have speculated as to whether New Zealand’s absence ‘opened the door’ to those below them on the leaderboard.

Following the Taranto event, New Zealand wing trimmer Blair Tuke said: “The leaderboard really could have gone either way this weekend and in the end, we saw the front teams widen their lead. As it worked out, with Emirates GBR and Australia having strong results and Denmark and Spain not having their best performance, we’ve managed to stay where we are [fifth] in the standings and maintain contact with the top three teams.”

The Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía-Cádiz will unfold over two days, beginning live at 1.30am on Sunday 15 and Monday 16 October NZST, only on ThreeNow. Fans can tune into full delayed coverage on Three (linear) at 4.30pm, or watch the replay in-app (available soon after live racing).

Cádiz marks the final event of the European leg of the SailGP championship before SailGP’s recently-announced return to Dubai for the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix, presented by P&O Marinas (9-10 Dec 2023). The event comes to Auckland for event 9 of 13 of Season 4  (23-24 March 2024)

Image by Ian Walton for SailGP