Gearing up for the first Extreme 40 World Championship
The boat park in Portorož, Slovenia is awash with international sailing talent as the teams entered into the inaugural Extreme 40 World Championship prepare their boats for action.
Five days of racing will begin on Wednesday 14 July with the first of up to 15 Olympic-style courses in the Bay of Portorož on the Extreme 40 catamarans based out of the Kempinski Palace Hotel.
Shirley Robertson skipper of Team BMW Great Britain is looking forward to the racing: “It’s a pretty special place here and great to come somewhere new, I’ve never been to Slovenia and it is an amazing hotel in front of an amazing race course. These boats will put on good show.
“The longer courses will give us more opportunity to show the boats off along the beautiful coast line and in many ways for the helmsman it is a joy to let the boat breathe. It’s like driving a fast car, always having to stop at junctions, but here we can put the pedal down, let it rip and as a helmsman that’s a complete joy.”
The ISAF endorsed World Championship has six teams lining up for the first ever event.
Mitch Booth, the co-creator of the Extreme 40 class is once again at the helm of The Ocean Racing Club, the home Slovenian Team. Joining Mitch are two of his regular Extreme 40 crew - Dutchmen Ed van Lierde and Sander Speet, joined by Slovenian Tomaz Copi.
Booth was out training with three other teams this afternoon. “It’s been another day of ideal conditions for what we expect the remainder of the World Championship to be. We practiced today with four teams and the stage is set for what we expect to be a fantastic week of racing.”
There are three double Olympic Gold Medalists in the fleet - Shirley Robertson, Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher. Robertson will be joined by regular Extreme 40 sailors Brits Will Howden and Andrew MacLean and Kiwi Matt Adams.
Roman Hagara has been training hard since the opening event on the Extreme Sailing Series in Sète where they finished seventh overall with his Red Bull Extreme Sailing team. Hagara will be joined by his regular crew: Olympic tactician Hans Peter Steinacher, and Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup sailors Gabriele Olivo from Italy and David Vera from Spain.
Hans-Peter Steinacher, Tactician on Red Bull Extreme Sailing was looking forward to the longer, Olympic-style courses the teams will face this week. “The format we are using here is what we are used to at the Olympics so it isn’t too long since we sailed like this so it will come back quickly to us. Boat speed is quite important so at the end we have to look at who is the quickest boat and who is coming easy out of the starts in the smoothest way."
Steinacher isn’t new to competing in Slovenia having sailed all down the Adriatic coast “The Bay here in Portorož is excellent. It’s really nice weather, a great Marina, the hotel is great. I think to have an event here is great so if the wind conditions continue like this, it’s going to be spectacular.”
There are three new teams stepping up to challenge for the overall World Championship title. Roman’s brother Andreas Hagara, an Olympian and former Tornado World Champion will lead a strong Dutch crew sailing the French entry, Team Petras France. Andreas is joined by his regular Extreme 40 crew Gerd Habermuller, along with Michael Schonleitner.
“It’s very nice to be back in the Extreme 40s,” he commented as he prepared the boat for an afternoon of practice racing. “I enjoyed it in the past very much. We are four Austrians, all with multihull or Tornado backgrounds so we should be strong. I really enjoy the short course racing, it’s fun and good, but tough on the team physically, so the longer courses might give us bit of a breather. We hope for a few good results and really happy to be here.”
The Hagara brothers last raced against each other in 2003 in the Tornado European Championships where Andreas came first and Roman second. A chance for a Hagara one-two at the Extreme 40 World Championships? “Ha! I don’t think so, we aren’t on these boats full time, but we’ll try!” he laughed.
Pim Nieuwenhuis takes a promotion to the skipper spot for Team IWC Holland, from his regular role onboard The Ocean Racing Club with Mitch Booth. “I got the call for the upgrade a couple of days ago and I’m really excited about it. It’s a great opportunity for me to steer the boat and looking forward to it. The longer courses are going to be easier on the boat handling so speed is going to be more important.”
Three new crew members join Nieuwenhuis, two Dutchmen, F18 World Bronze Medalist Ferdinand van West, Star Olympian Alex Breuseker and Luke Cross from Great Britain and only one with experience. “Yes, that’s me! It’s going to be tough, we are a late entry, a novice team, but my personal goal will be to win some of the races and we are excited about lining up against the big guys.”
The final entry is a Hungarian scratch team, Team Nokia Hungary, helmed by German Roland Gaebler. Olympic bronze medalist Gaebler is joined by Hortobagyi Gabor and Kaltenecker Karoly, both Hungarian and catamaran national champions. The final member of the team is experienced Extreme 40er Mark Van Gelderen, from the Netherlands.
Karoly was still suffering from the previous day’s training: “Mark is a tough guy and he shouts at us a lot. He is very loud! But he is pushing us hard and teaching us a lot. The goal this week is to bring us together as a team and to put up a good fight with the other boats. It’s a great venue here. After training yesterday, I was a dead man, it was such hard work!”
Tuesday 14 July will be the Media Day when national and international media will join the teams for informal racing, while the official action starts on Wednesday 15th with the first start at 11am, from the Kempinski Palace Hotel.
Race Director Alan Hillman talked through the race schedule, “We anticipate up to three classic windward/leeward races with a target time of 40 minutes until Sunday, except for Thursday which will be a longer, fleet coastal race to Koper, about 8 miles, and a return leg to Portorož.”
Tomaz Copi, racing with Mitch Booth on the Slovenian The Ocean Racing Club, looked forward to the first World Championship: “It’s great to have the first World Championship on Slovenian waters. It’s a good turn out for the first year and looking around the boat park everywhere there seems to be an Olympic medal or World Champion everywhere.
“I just want to survive this week. I saw some nice videos with flying hulls and strong winds and I want to show the people of Slovenia that.”