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Burling skippers Kiwis to New York regatta win and clinches spot in SailGP's $2M Grand Final

Peter Burling and the New Zealand Black Foils sailed a flawless podium race on the Hudson River on Sunday to win the Mubadala New York Sail Grand Prix and clinch a spot in SailGP's $2 million, winner-take-all Grand Final in San Francisco next month.

Burling and his mates took the inside position at the start and kept their 50-foot foiling catamaran ahead of Phil Robertson of Canada and Giles Scott of Britain to win for the fifth time in 12 regattas. They still need to get through the San Francisco regatta in one piece on July 13 and 14 but will have a spot on the starting line of the three-boat Grand Final for the second straight year.

Three-time defending SailGP champion Tom Slingsby and Team Australia missed the podium race for the second straight regatta but leap-frogged Spain into second place in the season standings. The Aussies went 9-1 in Sunday's two fleet races and finished fourth overall.

The Kiwis have exerted dominance despite a stunning setback in the season's third regatta, when their wingsail suddenly shattered and fell into the Mediterranean minutes after they had completed the first day of racing in Saint-Tropez. They were forced to the docks for the rest of that regatta and the next regatta.

It's not surprising the Kiwis have bounced back, considering their deep experience. Burling and wing trimmer Blair Tuke won three Olympic medals together, including one gold, and are the core of two-time defending America's Cup champion Emirates Team New Zealand.

“I knew we had a long road ahead of us to be top of the leaderboard going into the Grand Final, missing an event, not only the points side of things but just the lack of training time, which this group has had less training time than anyone else in the whole league this season," Burling said.

“It's been a tough season but to just charge through that and get these wins on the board is something we’re super proud of," he said before the crew members sprayed each other with Champagne.

The Kiwis lead the trans-Tasman Sea rival Aussies 93-78 on the season leaderboard, while Spain's Diego Botin is third with 76 points. France is five points out of podium position, Canada and ROCKWOOL Denmark are another four points back, and the British are 10 points back.

Nothing is given in SailGP, where penalty points, a collision or a capsize can drastically affect a team's fate.

Slingsby, an Olympic gold medalist and former America's Cup champion, beat Burlng and Britain's Sir Ben Ainslie in the Season 3 Grand Final in tech baron Larry Ellison's global league. The prize money has doubled to $2 million this season for the winning crew.

Robertson had a perfectly timed start Sunday but the Canadians briefly buried one bow into the water. Burling had the inside position and forced Canada and Britain high and wide approaching the first mark to gain control.

“Awesome to get another win on the board. Really tricky conditions, really snakes and ladders, but to get three solid starts today, put together three solid races and end up winning it," Burling said. "I'm pretty proud of the team.”

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Bernie Wilson has covered sailing for the AP since 1991.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports

Bernie Wilson, The Associated Press