Upstarts Canada, skippered by Kiwi Phil Robertson, have snatched victory at the inaugural NZ Sail Grand Prix, but the Kiwis may have done enough to seal a spot in the series Grand Final at San Francisco.
On current standings, New Zealand would face two-time defending champions Australia and France in May, after finishing second on home waters and consolidating their grip on second on the overall standings.
Peter Burling and his crew dominated the five fleet races over the weekend at Lyttelton, with one victory, two seconds and a third - perhaps their most consistent performance of the season - to qualify on top for the three-boat final.
After struggling through the opening day, the Aussies bounced back with two wins on Sunday, while Canada continued their surprising showing to edge title contenders France and Great Britain out of the final.
With the reduced field, Australia and Canada battled for the early advantage at the start, but as the race wore on, New Zealand emerged as the big challengers to the North Americans, actually taking a brief lead on the penultimate leg.
The Canadians were slapped with a late boundary call that seemed to have robbed them of victory, but quickly regrouped from their 20-metre penalty to charge past the Kiwis for victory.
"We came into this event and all the previous ones, thinking we could take it out," said Robertson. "We ramped it up as the day went on, we did the same yesterday and finished with a bullet, so it's nice to do that two days in a row and this one was a little more special than yesterday.
"We've seen it all along, but we just hadn't strung it together. It was nice to put the whole package together.
"In that final race, we gave it a good shot at letting the Kiwis back into it, but we held strong. The boundary penalty must have been about half a metre over, but we scrubbed that, stayed on lay and come fast into the bottom, so happy days."
Auckland-born Robertson had plenty of support on the shore, cheering on the Canadians.
"This team is pretty new and pretty fresh, and we've worked hard to be competitive with these top teams. Today is just an example of what we can do, when we put it all together.
"It's nice to see a bit of progress, get an event win and get that monkey off our shoulders."2023-03-19T04:46:21Z dg43tfdfdgfd