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Slingsby, Aussies take slim lead in Spain SailGP regatta

Tom Slingsby and two-time defending champion Team Australia regained their sea legs and took a slim lead in the Spain Sail Grand Prix in Cádiz on Saturday.

Slingsby skippered his foiling 50-foot catamaran to fleet-race finishes of first, second and sixth to bounce back from rough performances in the two previous regattas in the third season of tech tycoon Larry Ellison’s global league.

Slingsby and France’s Quentin Delapierre each had 24 points, although the Aussies technically lead going into Sunday’s two fleet races followed by the podium race featuring the top three crews. Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie was third with 22 points, followed by Team USA’s Jimmy Spithill and New Zealand’s Peter Burling with 21 apiece in the nine-boat fleet. Burling and Ainslie each won a fleet race.

The Aussies won the second race by more than a minute.

“It wasn’t easy in those conditions with the waves — it was like a washing machine out there,” said Slingsby, an Olympic gold medalist and former America's Cup champion. “There’s so many waves bouncing off the break wall and coming back at us. In those conditions you’re only one crash away from being passed. The points are so close, and we need to have a good day tomorrow to make the final.”

The Aussies came into this regatta with a one-point lead over the Kiwis in the season standings. Slingsby is trying for a third straight title and a $1 million winner-take-all prize.

Spithill, coming off Team USA’s first SailGP regatta victory, had finishes of 3-5-4 to keep his chances alive reaching a second straight podium race.

“We knew that we couldn’t push as hard as we wanted to today,” said Spithill, a two-time America's Cup champion. “So, we were trying to be as consistent as we could be. We knew we were going to have moments and that the fleet would have moments, so we were really trying to stay cool and recover and get back into the race.”

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