Drawing up battle lines
The Olympic spirit is very much alive in Qingdao, host of the sailing events of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and some of the Extreme Sailing Series competitors have strong memories from three years ago when they represented their countries in the Tornado catamaran class.
Red Bull Extreme Sailing Austrian duo Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher finished 10th, while their British crew man Will Howden came 6th with helmsman Leigh McMillan, who is in Qingdao coaching Oman Air.
Argentinian Santiago Lange, who here is skippering Artemis Racing in place of Terry Hutchinson, reached the Olympic podium to secure bronze and New Zealander Glenn Ashby, racing with Emirates Team New Zealand, went one better and returned home with silver.
Luna Rossa helm, Paul Campbell-James, also recalled his time in Qingdao: “I was one of the tuning partners for Team GBR and was here for almost a month doing a lot of training where the Olympic racing was held just right out here. We’ve been sailing for two days and we’re just dying for the event to get started now. We were expecting there not to be much breeze but the last two days there has been about 12 knots - enough to get us flying and get some practice races in so its been pretty good.”
The Extreme 40s in Fushan Bay
The teams are in the final stages of preparation, fine tuning their boats, discussing tactics and studying their weather files. Racing starts tomorrow for two days of non-public racing, allowing the race management team to set optimum race courses further offshore if required, before the event opens to the public from Friday, 15 April through until the final day on Sunday, 17 April when one of the 11 teams will lift the Double Star Cup.
But its not just the teams who are putting the final touches to their campaigns, the organising committee of the Qingdao Yachting Association are putting the weight of their Olympic experience into hosting another high-profile sailing event as Leo Zhanglizhong, Project Officer, Qingdao Sports Bureau commented: “The host city is looking forward to this great event for a long time and we have all been busy preparing for the event here in Qingdao. All the citizens are very eager to see the exciting racing.”
An objective of Roland Gaebler’s Team Extreme has been to sail with a local sailor of the host venue and Chinese sailor, William Wu, has been training the team and is looking forward to the racing: “I am looking forward to getting more experience on large multihull racing boats racing against some of the best sailors in the world,” said Wu. “I have been racing in Qingdao so I have local knowledge of the area which will help with race strategy. However I will be the one learning the most from my team, particularly from my skipper Olympic medalist Roland Gaebler.” Wu is a relative newcomer to the sailing world who had his first taste of sailing in Shanghai in 2007. He progressed rapidly in the sport and now has his own Chinese sailing team, Whitewave, who are aiming to compete on an international level representing his country.
Phil Lawrence, Race Manager, outlines the weather scenario for the Extreme Sailing Series Qingdao: “The forecast looks quite promising for the next two or three days with a reasonable breeze in the afternoons, although its looking lighter for the weekend but we’re still quite a long way out. The boats are very light so even if the winds are light we can still race. The tides are very strong here and if we do have some stronger breeze the sea can get very rough, so we’re going to have some challenging conditions either way.”
For the Extreme 40 sailors they will adapt to whatever the weather situation and are used to racing at the Extreme Sailing Series venues that do not follow the conventions of other sailing events, racing directly in front of the public in city centres, on canals, off beaches or on rivers. The teams adapt quickly to their local environment and as we saw at in the first Exteme Sailing Series event of the season at The Wave, Muscat, the teams slower off the starting blocks were soon back in the mix, which was the case for Luna Rossa as Paul Campbell-James explains: “We were pretty happy after Act 1, results-wise we were hoping to get on the podium, but the way it went we were just off fourth place and we started pretty average and finished pretty well. We hope to carry that momentum into this event. It’s such a varied set of conditions that you get here and I still wouldn’t say one team is stronger than any other in the light so I’m backing ourselves!”
The people of the ‘City of Sails’ are going to witness five days of intense competition… Let the battle commence!
Extreme Sailing Series Act 2 Team Line-Up:
Team / Skipper & crew
Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec / Christophe Espagnon / Thierry Fouchier / Hervé Cunningham
Artemis Racing (SWE), Santiago Lange / Rodney Ardern / Morgan Trubovich / Andy Fethers
Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), Roman Hagara / Hans Peter Steinacher / Will Howden / Craig Monk
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Dean Barker / Glenn Ashby / James Dagg / Richard Meacham
Luna Rossa (ITA), Max Sirena / Paul Campbell-James / Alister Richardson / Manuel Modena
Alinghi (SUI), Tanguy Cariou / Yann Guichard / Nils Frei / Yves Detrey
The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Torvar Mirsky / Kyle Langford / Nick Hutton / Khamis Al Anbouri
Oman Air (OMA), Sidney Gavignet / Kinley Fowler / David Carr / Nasser Al Mashari
Team Extreme (EUR), Roland Gaebler / Bruno Dubois / Sebbe Godefroid / William Wu (tbc)
Niceforyou (ITA), Alberto Barovier / Mark Bulkeley / Daniele de Luca Simone de Mari
Team GAC Pindar (GBR), Ian Williams / Brad Webb / Gilberto Nobili / Jono Macbeth