Quentin Delapierre skippered Team France to its first SailGP victory by holding off Team USA’s Jimmy Spithill by three seconds in the Spain Sail Grand Prix in Cádiz on Sunday.
The victory moved the French into third place in the season standings after six of 11 regattas in the third season of tech billionaire Larry Ellison’s global league.
Two-time defending SailGP champion Team Australia, which finished third in the podium race, continues to lead Team New Zealand by four points in the season standings, with France now five points back in third in the nine-boat fleet.
“This feels really, really good,” Delapierre said after one of the closest finishes in SailGP history. “It’s a very special day for the French team. We have come back from so far in the field to the top. I mean, last season we were last in Cádiz and I think the team pushed really hard since the beginning of this season to keep the learning curve increasing so we are really happy.”
Spithill was pushing for a second straight regatta win and had the lead rounding the second mark of the podium race but his 50-foot catamaran flew too high and crashed off its foils. Delapierre sailed into the lead and held off the Americans rounding the final mark onto the short reach to the finish.
Team USA remains in seventh place overall but has closed within seven points of podium position. The top three teams at the end of the season will race for a $1 million, winner-take-all prize.
Spithill finished sixth and fourth in Sunday's fleet races to squeak into the podium race one point ahead of Canada, which won both of the fleet races.
“The team was under real pressure going into the last two events, but we have stuck together and it’s given us a lot of belief and a lot of confidence,” said Spithill, a two-time America’s Cup winner. “It’s a great result for the team to get a big points spread like that and we’re going to try and carry that through to Dubai. I’m really impressed with how the team is coming together.”
The next regatta is Nov. 12-13 in Dubai.