Artemis, the stadium sailing ringer
For day three of racing, the Extreme Sailing Series Muscat moved into a new phase, away from short but otherwise conventional windward-leewards to a stadium-style format with an even shorter race course located just metres from the breakwater entrance to the marina at The Wave, Muscat. After the blistering 15-20 knots of the opening two days, the afternoon sea breeze today was lighter, down to around 10 knots, with the first of five fleet races getting underway at 1400 the afternoon culminating with one round of match racing.
With today’s ‘stadium sailing’ race pundits were predicting that it would be the seasoned Extreme Sailing Series teams who would come out on top, but in fact this proved to be anything but true with yesterday’s runaway leader Groupe Edmond de Rothschild posting average results today while the America’s Cup team Artemis Racing, conventional windward-leeward specialists par excellence, being the top performers of the day.
With six fleet races held on the impossibly tight course, Terry Hutchinson and his team of Sean Clarkson, Morgan Trubovich and Andy Fethers posted three bullets, a second and a third, ending the day three points adrift of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild with The Wave, Muscat, Alinghi and Red Bull Extreme Sailing still very much in the fight for overall points.
“I’d like to say we’re closer than we probably are,” said Hutchinson, once ashore off the Oman Sail base at The Wave, Muscat. “Today was a good day, but today was an easier day to sail the boat and it emphasised starting well and good boat handling. But when we sailed against the Gitana guys yesterday in really good, hard conditions to sail a multihull well in, they just absolutely smoked us. We have a long way to go in being efficient.”
Hutchinson added that while the opening two days of the regatta had been a little brisk, today the wind strength and conditions were similar to those they have enjoyed during their two boat Extreme 40 training in Miami over the winter.
At the helm of Luna Rossa, the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series winning helmsman Paul Campbell-James also had a better day, winning the first race and posting the second best scoreline of the day behind Artemis. As last year’s skipper of The Wave, Muscat, Campbell-James obviously knows these waters well having trained here for three months last year during his time at Oman Sail.
“We got a 1, 3 two 5s and a seven and then won our match race, so we’re happy,” Paul C-J commented. “Yesterday in the long races we struggled a little bit. Today we were back to emphasising our starts and boat positioning and stuff like that which is where we are quite strong, so a good day.”
Paul C-J has a new ride for this year along with his 2010 winning tactician, fellow ex-49er sailor Alister Richardson, joined by Italian ex-Cup sailors Max Sirena and Manuel Modena. “It is great having Max and Mani and their input It is obviously a new team and a different dynamic.”
While the match racing only scores one point (a win in a fleet race scores 11), Campbell-James points out that competition in this area has seen a marked hike in 2011 with two skippers in from the World Match Racing Tour and three other America’s Cup teams joining this year's team line-up.
Luna Rossa had two weeks of training here prior to this regatta and Paul C-J says they still have some way to go in terms of their speed and tuning.
While Ian Williams’ crew on Team GAC Pindar are still struggling to what is an entirely new discipline for them, as are the Italians on Team Nice For You, led by America’s Cup sailor Alberto Barovier, posting some better results today was the last team to sign up for this season – German Tornado bronze medallist Roland Gaebler’s Extreme!
“We had one good race – a fifth – then the rest was like the last days, 7-9,” said Gaebler. “We had some good starts, but we had major problems in light wind upwind speed. But we are right at the beginning. We’ve only had six days of training. We have many things to do. We are happy with going around the course without major crashes and keeping clear. Step by step we are getting into it.”
Gaebler is being ably supported by Finn medallist Sebbe Godefroid and North France’s Bruno Dubois with the late addition of German F18 sailor Michael Walther. “The team is working very well and we have a good friendship and we are enjoying the sailing. But we have some problems with the boat - we have to carry a lot of weight. We have 65kg on board and half is in the back, so we are a bit overloaded at the back but that is not the point – there are many other things we have to learn for us to make progress. This sailing area is fantastic – we have nearly the same wind direction and it is warm and we are fine. We are thinking we should train here in the winter. It is a really nice place.”
Tomorrow another six fleet races on the stadium course are scheduled with another day ender which may be another set of match races or something more cunning, depending upon what PRO Phil Laurence conjures up.
Results at the bottom of the page.