Emirates Team New Zealand to the fore
Dean Barker and his Emirates Team New Zealand crew were the star performers on the penultimate day of racing at the Extreme Sailing Series Muscat. With another day of winds that peaked at around 10 knots, racing got underway at 1400 and in front of the assembled spectators, perched on tiered seating along the breakwater, during the afternoon the organisers shoehorned in eight races, making it 25 now sailed with potentially at least another six to come tomorrow.
Of the eight Emirates Team NZ won two and were on the podium in all but two, propelling them up the overall results from seventh to fourth. "Today everything fell into place really well and we had a fantastic day on the water and managed to get some good solid results which was very pleasing for all of us,” commented Barker. “It was a day where in a lot of ways we had a little bit of luck, which seems to be an important ingredient here, and we had some good starts and the crew were solid all day. We might have started the regatta slow but each day it feels like we have improved a little bit and if we can carry on improving then we’ll be satisfied.”
While the Kiwi Cup team added 74 points to their overall results today, the other top performers of the day were Olympic Tornado double gold medallist Roman Hagara on Red Bull Extreme Sailing who scored 63 today, hoisting them from fifth to third, two points more today than Pierre Pennec's Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, who retain the overall lead from Artemis Racing, and one more than the Paul Campbell-James driven Luna Rossa.
“We are really happy now we are third overall and it’s great for us," commented Hagara. "We are almost beginners and it is the best result so far and I hope we can continue. We have a lot of experience in the Extreme 40 already and Craig [Monk] is really strong so he can do a lot of things that we can not handle without him, and those last minute calls are a bit easier so overall we made a good improvement.”
The most dramatic incident of the day came when Torvar Mirsky’s The Wave, Muscat suffered a collision with Alinghi, and very nearly ended up on the breakwater boulders. As Mirsky’s crew called for water and tacked on to port, Alinghi did not react quickly enough and crashed into their port hull. The Wave, Muscat carried on racing but has been craned out tonight to undergo a night of repairs. The team has confirmed they will be back racing tomorrow and they are still very much in the game lying fifth overall. Right now, 7 of the 11 teams could still win Act 1 of the Extreme Sailing Series with multiple races to come and double-points up for grabs in the final race.
Of the 11 teams, six won races today, including a first ever bullet for the Italians on Team Niceforyou, who still lie second last overall. For the crew of principally former America's Cup sailors, the Extreme Sailing Series has proved an eye opener.
Skipper Alberto Barovier commented "Even if you start well, it is not that easy because the races are short and all the boats are compressed into a small area. If you miss a tack, everything just blows up. This is our first time in multihulls and the first time sailing this boat. So for us this is training, but we knew it would be like this, so we are not in a rush to win. It is completely different from the America’s Cup or the Star class where I was sailing. Extreme 40 regattas are really tough and close, with all the boats really tight." Tight enough that yesterday they were collided into by a port tack Team GAC Pindar and were up all night repairing their boat.
For Oman Air's Sidney Gavignet, the challenge of racing on the Extreme Sailing Series has not been getting to grips with catamarans, it has been helming a crewed race boat around the short courses. Gavignet is more used to racing singlehanded or round the world in the Volvo Ocean Race.
"My last racing tack at the helm was probably on a Tornado in 1992! Then I did the Figaro singlehanded and then I do the Volvo which is different and the Open 60 it is 15 minutes for a tack, the trimaran [Oman Air in the Route du Rhum] the same story. So I had to relearn all this – which is great."
To get back up to speed Gavignet has spent the last two months in Oman and reckons he's had a month of on the water training. "I feel I am a much better sailor now than I was two months ago," he says. "All the team is new as well. We learn on the go. We did a very good job with Torvar and The Wave team before this to be where we are now. I am very happy – I had some doubts about it to start. It is a big challenge for me and for everyone. It is risky because I thought I’d do really badly, but it is refreshing and the rules are refreshing because I am sailing with young guys."
Away from the racing, the 11 Extreme 40 teams are flying their dockside flags at half-mast today and tomorrow as a sign of respect to the people of New Zealand who have been affected by the earthquake that struck Christchurch on Tuesday. With Kiwi crew amongst the 44 sailors here, everyone’s thoughts have turned to New Zealand and the challenges they now face.
More images from Carlo Borlenghi/www.borlenghi.com. Click on images to enlarge them
From Mark Lloyd/www.lloydimages.com